By Darren Johnson
Netflix PR has started sending me their monthly releases in advance (see page 17), so I’ve decided to print them as a TV Guide of sorts on the following page. As for TV, some of us have cable, some satellite, some just antenna – but most of us have Netflix, or at least a friend’s password. Keep this handy guide so you know what’s coming.
Perhaps the most notable movie amongst November’s releases is “Boyhood,” and I think it qualifies for this “It’s New to You!” column in that it’s long – almost three hours – and, outside of its initial movie buzz and Oscar nomination two years ago, hasn’t gotten a ton of play on cable TV. So, odds are, you haven’t attempted this film yet.
But this epic – while not fantastic – is worth the journey. The concept is, director Richard Linklater revisits the same actors every year or so over a stretch of a dozen years. We find Mason (Ellar Coltrane) facing various challenges over his life, from school bullying, to the divorce of his parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) to first love.
It should be noted that Lorelei Grace Linklater, who plays Mason’s sister Samantha, also does an excellent job and, with a few tweaks, this movie could have been called “Girlhood.” Perhaps the director didn’t want to seem to be playing favorites with his real-life daughter.
The making of this movie – with the “parents” being A-list actors – is a logistical miracle. How does one maintain funding and commitment over 12 years? Say one of the actors quit, or worse?
While the movie is a slice-of-life piece, it would have been great if there were a more consistent plotline throughout the years, tying it all together better. Or some kind of central idea that one or more of the characters keeps gravitating to. But, I guess, that would be a lot to maintain over 12 years – and maybe it’s true that the typical life lived doesn’t have a central plot – it just meanders and goes with the flow.
One of the hardest things to accomplish with a film is to convey the passing of long stretches of time. This movie surely does that – without the actor changes less enterprising movies usually rely on. Pass some time – three hours – with this film. It will stay with you for longer than that.
Funny or Delete
Funny of Die’s web presence never really grabbed me as all that funny. Their foray into Netflix is even worse. They have an all-star cast, led by Johnny Depp as the lead character, Donald Trump, in “The Art of the Deal: The Movie,” now on the service.
It’s only 50 minutes, but they are a painful 50 minutes. The movie’s gimmick is that Trump’s mega-popular 1980’s book had forgottenly been made into a movie at that time, and the movie was now suddenly being made available. It has a VHS look to it with gaudy titling and colors, and performances by people like Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Alfred Molina and Patton Oswalt – but it’s just not funny in the least.
We get it. Trump’s entertainment persona is buffoonish. We already know that. But is imitating a buffoon all that funny? We already have the original, who needs an imitation? What a waste of time, resources and talent.
Another original, election-related comedy on Netflix, “Undecided,” is equally as bad. It uses a mockumentary style to show us two “average” voters who are undecided about the presidential election. They go town to town by bus, trying to make up their minds. But this bus ride was too dull to stay on board – the premise being “the average voter is stupid” could have been told in five minutes, rather than with this 90-minute snoozer.
Ah, the early 80s – when people didn’t have cell phones, cops didn’t draw their weapons and people drove unreliable cars like Ford Pintos that didn’t start just as a crazy St. Bernard was on the loose.
“Cujo,” the 1983 Stephen King-based story of a possessed giant dog, wouldn’t work today for all of the above reasons – a cell phone easily could have come in handy as star Dee Wallace is mostly holed up in that lemon of a car as Cujo is mowing down anyone who happens on the scene. And a cop shows up but doesn’t draw his gun and eventually succumbs to the creature.
This movie is coming to Netflix this month (see chart, page 17), and while it’s not a great movie – and surely is dated – the name “Cujo” is still widely referenced today when referring to a mean dog.
It wouldn’t be until the “Beethoven” movies later in the decade when people began to like St. Bernards again.
But this is a good “It’s New to You!” movie because you likely haven’t seen it. And it won’t be too burdensome: It’s short and there isn’t much dialogue, and practically no meaningful dialogue – all you need to know is there is a crazy dog out there. So you can multitask on your smart phone and occasionally look up to see what’s going on.
Read more “It’s New to You!” columns at www.nu2u.info.