Thursday, April 18, 2019

Five fine films on Netflix streaming: LADY J, YOUR SON, MIRAGE, THE CLAPPER and A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE

Will Forte and Dohmnall Gleeson (shown below, left and right, respectively) are terrific in this very cleverly handled bio-pic about the two guys -- Douglas Kenney and Henry Beard -- who started the National Lampoon magazine and went on (one of them, at least) to give us a couple of raunchy/weird comedy classic movies: Animal House and Caddyshack. As written by Michael Colton and John Aboud, and directed with unshowy finesse by David Wain, the film grabs you from the outset via its very interesting narrator, who only grows much more so by movie's marvelous end. Filled with oddball fun and a main character who, though not all that likeable, via Forte's rich performance, holds you in

sway just fine, the film is abrim with nostalgia, all right, but even more with crack performances and smart writing that, thanks to Wain's great pacing, keeps things bouncing along delightfully until the bill must be paid. How this is handled is every bit as wonderful as all that has preceded it. The movie resonates emotionally without being at all sentimental or cloying. It's a great memorial to a very funny and special magazine and to the guys (and gals, one of these played by Natasha Lyonne, above, center) who created it.


Special for a number of reasons, chief among these that, even as it holds a very necessary mirror up to the ways in which would-be "reality" TV corrupts us all, THE CLAPPER also manages to show us the kind of Hollywood characters that almost no movie wants to get near. These are the barely-making-it, little people, some of them pretty bizarre indeed, who live and work in a Hollywood that is anything but the land of our dreams. Writer/director Dito Montiel may not be a critics' darling, but even so, the lousy reception this unusual little film received seems to me very unfair.

Ed Helms (above, center right) and Tracy Morgan (center left) make a sad but quite believable pair of "clappers" -- those folk who act as supposed "real" audience members made to laugh, gasp and applaud on cue -- while Amanda Seyfried is sweet and pretty as the gas station girl on whom Helms has a crush. Where this movie goes and how it gets there is full of smart little touches and a quietly angry attitude toward fake fame. It's certainly not a perfect film, but it's so much better than so much that's out there, you ought to give it a try.


Anyone who's been wondering why they don't make a romantic time-travel movie like the popular 1980 hit, Somewhere in Time (which was only so-so in any case), don't miss the Spanish film now streaming on Netflix entitled MIRAGE (Durante la tormenta is the original Spanish title). It's maybe ten times more convoluted and interesting than was that earlier time-travel romance, and in fact is much more than mere love story (which doesn't even kick in until half the movie is over). This is also one hell of a mystery -- about death and love and life and caring and very oddball electronics -- that should keep you guessing and more right up to its not-quite-good-enough conclusion.

Don't worry: So smartly paced, beautifully acted and cleverly invented (by writer/director Oriol Paulo of The Invisible Guest) is the tale, that I think you'll forgive an ending that doesn't quite make enough sense. With the fine Spanish actress Adriana Ugarte in the lead, and a very hot young actor, Chino Darín, as the cop on the case, the movie offers plenty of eye-candy as well as a nearly first-rate story, niftily told. I'd watch the entire movie again just for the marvelous scene of a young man waiting at a railway station and literally growing up in the process.


Get to know your children. Please! That would seem to be the important message of YOUR SON (Tu hijo), another Netflix movie from Spain and one of the darkest I've seen in some time. When the handsome late-teenage son of a successful doctor is beaten nearly to death outside a night club, his father becomes obsessed with finding out who did it and why. The journey takes him into uncharted territory, as this fellow -- who clearly has paid much more attention to his work than to his family -- slowly uncovers more and more ugly and unsettling information.

As directed and co-written by Miguel Ángel Vivas, of Kidnapped fame (or infamy), this much less "showy" movie is also a lot deeper. Extremely well-acted by the entire cast and especially by leading actor Jose Coronado (on the poster above), who brings gravity and tension to every one of his many scenes. He controls the movie, and by the time the film has reached its dark conclusion, you're with Señor Coronado in body, soul and hopelessness.


Is there another current filmmaker who can write witty, scintillating, intelligent dialog about love, sex, relationships and hypocrisy better than Emmanuel Mouret? If so, I sure can't think who that he or she might be. After Shall We Kiss and Please, Please Me!, his latest endeavor, LADY J (original French title: Mademoiselle de Joncquières) should only burnish his reputation even brighter. Mouret has always seemed to me to be a modern-day Marivaux, but with this film he actually places his period a couple of centuries in the past to tell a tale of love and seduction, betrayal and revenge.

What makes this so very special, however, is Mouret's light-hearted and near-comical take on it all. Truly awful things transpire here, but so charmingly, graciously are they unveiled that we bounce right along with them, only slowly becoming aware of the cruel nature of what is going on. Still, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, in any of its incarnations, this ain't.

The movie stars three terrific French actors: Cécile de France (at right, two photos up), Edouard Baer (left, two photos up) and Alice Izaaz (above), each of whom proves so right for the role that you can't imagine anyone else managing it this well -- with fine support from the likes of Call My Agent's Laure Calamy as the "best friend." As we watched, my spouse and I kept marvelling at the wonderful dialog, of which we wanted to savor every subtitled word: It's that delicious. Miss this one at your peril.

All five of the above films are streaming now via Netflix. I suggest a watch soon, however, as one never knows when a film will suddenly disappear from view.

No comments: