CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Streaming Feature: Best of New to Netflix September 2013
CHICAGO – As much as our love for Netflix continues to grow on a daily basis as the company expands its grip on the streaming empire by offering brilliant programming like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” the interface, both on computer and iOS can be a little overwhelming. How do you find something worth watching? Some of the personalized recommendations are good. Some are horrendous. Let us be your guide. On the first Tuesday of every month (and likely more often as the library of this service continues to grow), we’ll give you ten interesting movies to add to your queue. We’ll shoot for a mix of new and old, a variety of genres, major films and minor ones — the “something for everyone” aspect that Netflix uses so well. We’ll be brief — ten movies, ten Netflix descriptions, our brief reasons as to why these flicks made the cut, and even links to add them to your queue (click on the title). All of these titles were added this week. None of them are “A Haunted House.” Without further ado…
Netflix Description: Idealistic teenager Rachel astonishes her fundamentalist Mormon family when she announces that she’s been impregnated by listening to a rock song. Rachel then runs off to Las Vegas to escape an arranged marriage and to find the father of her baby.
Why: When I spoke to Jim Mickle at Sundance about “We Are What We Are,” he couldn’t stop raving about Julia Garner’s performance in this flick. After you see “We Are,” opening next week in October, you’ll want to see everything this young star of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has been in and this one’s getting the indie buzz. For those who wish they were at a film festival.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Netflix Description: This cult favorite chronicles the hallucinogenic misadventures of a sportswriter and his lawyer on a three-day romp from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Motoring across the Mojave Desert to Sin City, the hazy travelers ingest a cornucopia of drugs.
Why: Terry Gilliam returns this week to the Venice Film Festival with his highly-anticipated “The Zero Theorem,” leading many to write about how they either consider it a return to form or another misstep a la “The Brothers Grimm” and “Tideland.” Go back and remind yourself why people love Gilliam with one of his best. For those looking to take a trip from their couch.
Netflix Description: Unemployed London bartender Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is suspected of killing his ex-wife in a string of serial strangulations in this Hitchcock thriller. Viewers learn early on that Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) is really the murderer, and suspense builds as Rusk’s strangulation spree continues. Police inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) must bear his wife’s attempt at gourmet food as he tries to solve the case, doubtful that Blaney’s the strangler.
Why: One of Hitchcock’s most criminally underappreciated flicks, his second-to-last work has undergone a critical reappraisal recently. Does it hold up with his best? No but few films do. Any Hitch you can watch for free as a part of your subscription, you should watch. For the classic movie fan.
Netflix Description: No one would suspect that the Hamiltons are a dangerous family — after all, with their white picket fence and squeaky clean public image, they’re practically impeccable. But behind closed doors, their extracurricular activities tend toward the sadistic. Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens and Brittany Daniel star in this gory horror offering from Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores.
Why: One of the few After Dark films that went straight to DVD in the ’00s that showed signs of creativity beyond its low budget, this atmosopheric, creepy piece works best for those willing to forgive the storytelling flaws often common in under-the-radar horror. It’s a little slow but effective. For those with an instant queue full of gore already.
Men in Black
Netflix Description: In director Barry Sonnenfeld’s hip sci-fi romp, a streetwise New York City cop is enlisted to work with a seasoned government agent on a top-secret team that monitors space aliens living on planet Earth, unbeknownst to the general public.
Why: It’s not my favorite blockbuster in Netflix but it does have legions of loyal fans who will be happy that they don’t have to pull the DVD off the shelf to watch their beloved sci-fi comedy. For those looking for a blockbuster now that Summer is over.
Netflix Description: A vacationing couple on a scuba diving expedition in the Caribbean accidentally gets left behind and is stranded for endless hours. Dehydrated and sickened, they must fend for themselves in shark-infested waters.
Why: Because it’s the best scare you can have this month. A couple set adrift after a diving expedition gone wrong are forced to deal with the toughest horror movie villain of all — mother nature. Don’t miss this one, especially since everyone is going to use it as a reference point when they talk about the upcoming “All is Lost” this Fall. For those afraid to go back in the water.
The People Under the Stairs
Netflix Description: Master of horror Wes Craven brings an urban twist to the classic fairy tale in the story of Fool, a 13-year-old lad who succumbs to ghetto pressures to steal from a local house. Fool’s instant karma comes in the gruesome form of the house’s residents — an insane, deformed family of murderers. The perils of latchkey kids and warnings about absentee parents are the subtle social subtext as Fool and other victims try to escape the deadly home.
Why: Fans of Craven’s looking for another Nightmare on Elm Street too easily wrote off this horror gem, one of Craven’s best and a film with so much social commentary that it overwhelmed its target audience. For those who only know Craven as the man who created Freddy Krueger and need to expand their horror knowledge base.
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Netflix Description: Stuck in a dead-end job and saddled with an abusive husband, Cecilia depends on the movies for her escape. She sees one picture so often that the film’s star walks off the screen and into her life and promptly falls in love with her.
Why: With “Blue Jasmine” doing incredibly well in theaters on its way to an eventual Oscar nomination for Cate Blanchett, why not fill in a possible gap in your Woody Allen history with one of his absolute best? For viewers who need to fill in their Woody Allen filmography or simply those who haven’t seen this masterpiece in too long.
Requiem For a Dream
Netflix Description: A widow’s growing dependence on amphetamines and a self-help television show parallels the struggles of her heroin-addicted son and his girlfriend and friend in Darren Aronofsky’s bleak drama.
Why: One of the darkest, most depressing examinations of the power of drug addiction, Darren Aronofsky’s second film disproved the sophomore slump and instantly announced his arrival as one of our most major filmmakers. For those who need another reason to stay on the wagon.
There Will Be Blood
Netflix Description: In this expansive drama, ambitious prospector Daniel Plainview strikes it rich when he buys the oil rights to a California family’s ranch. As he turns a simple village into a boomtown, Plainview stokes the ire of a charismatic young preacher.
Why: Really? For everyone.