Hidden Netflix Gems – Everything Must Go

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Hollywood has a rich history of well-known comic actors taking on more serious and weighty roles, from Robin Williams to Ben Stiller to Jim Carrey, and now Will Ferrell, in what is probably his very best performance to date. Everything Must Go bears a strong resemblance to Stiller’s work in Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg, or Adam Sandler‘s in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch-Drunk Love, in its portrayal of a flawed but basically good-hearted man going through difficult times and coming out better for it. The difference between Ferrell and Sandler, of course, is that Ferrell’s comedies generally don’t suck.

Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, an alcoholic who loses his job at the beginning of the film and, after an ill-advised revenge against his boss, Gary (Glenn Howerton), returns home to discover that his wife has left him. Not only that, she has locked him out of the house, frozen their joint bank account, and left all of his possessions out on the front lawn. Nick is understandably upset, and reacts in the defeated way that has apparently become his life’s standard recourse: he buys a lot of beer and camps out in his La-Z-Boy on the lawn for the night. In the morning, having exhausted his beer supply and unable to find his car keys, he borrows a bicycle from his twelve-year-old neighbor, Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace), and heads down to the convenience store for more beer while Kenny keeps an eye on his stuff.

Nick also befriends his new neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a beautiful young photographer who has just moved by herself from New York, where her husband is wrapping things up at his company, planning to join her in Arizona as soon as possible. There are hints that their marriage is on the rocks, as when she tells Nick early on that her husband wants to name their unborn baby (with whom she is currently pregnant) Jack, after himself, a practice she thinks is “kind of ridiculous.” I found this especially ironic knowing that the excellent young actor who plays Kenny is in fact the son of the other Christopher Wallace, best known as The Notorious B.I.G. We also meet Nick’s friend and former Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Frank Garcia (Michael Pena), when he rescues Nick from arrest by virtue of the fact that Frank is himself a higher-ranking officer than the ones sent to Nick’s house on a complaint from his neighbors.

Frank allows Nick to remain living on his lawn for the next few days under the pretense that he is holding a yard sale; after that, if Nick can’t get himself together, Frank will have no choice but to take him to jail. Clearly, this is not a plot-driven film, but that is not to say it isn’t a very well-structured one; the yard sale provides the forward thrust for Nick’s attempt to get his life back on track, and subtle details pay off in unexpected ways throughout. It is to the great credit of first-time writer-director Dan Rush that the film never takes the easy or expected routes, and it also takes its time in developing its characters and their relationships, all of which are nuanced and believable. The approach is well-suited to the author of its source material, the great Raymond Carver, and the film finds a perfect balance between poignancy and humor, both of which are equally effective when employed.

  

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Earth Girls Are Easy

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

In an oddball blend of ’50s science fiction classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still, combined with much stronger elements of beach musicals and screwball comedy, director Julien Temple‘s Earth Girls Are Easy explores interplanetary sexual politics with a light and infectiously fun touch. This is one of those ’80s movies, much like The Lost Boys, that is objectively silly and perhaps unimportant to the history of cinema, but is nonetheless one of my favorite movies of all time.

Valerie (Geena Davis) is a sort of ditzy manicurist who works at beauty parlor in San Fernando Valley with her gloriously superficial and oversexed friend Candy (co-writer Julie Brown). After discovering her physician fiancée, Ted (Charles Rocket), attempting to cheat on her with a nurse he brings home, she kicks him out and wrecks most of his belongings in a musical montage of destruction and bittersweet flashbacks of the better times they spent together. Of all the film’s musical numbers, this is the weakest, but still great visual fun and prime ’80s nostalgia, as when Valerie shoves a box of Ted’s cigars into the VCR, or when she sends a bowling ball crashing into his Commodore 64 computer. As if her relationship troubles aren’t bad enough, the next morning a spaceship full of furry, horny aliens lands in her pool, and Valerie has to figure out how to keep them secret until they can fix their flooded ship and head back to their home planet.

The aliens are Mac (Jeff Goldblum), Zeebo (Damon Wayans) and Wiploc (Jim Carrey), and of course the solution to the problem of how to hide their alien identity is a makeover. Candy assists, removing the aliens’ colorful fur and revealing “three major cute guys” underneath. Valerie falls for Mac in particular, becoming enamored with his innocent, childlike ways, a result of the culture clash experienced by all three aliens, which is a major source of the film’s comedy. In perhaps the funniest scene in the movie, Zeebo and Wiploc, en route to a beach trip with Valerie’s aging surfer pool cleaner, Woody (Michael McKean), take his suggestion that they pick up “bread and junk” for sandwiches very literally. Brandishing a realistic toy gun accidentally stolen from a child earlier, they tell the frightened cashier, “Give us bread. We need junk.”

Though Earth Girls Are Easy could fairly be labeled predictable and certainly inconsequential, it has an undeniable charm, and only the severely humor-deficient will be unable to find something to like about it. For whatever reason, this movie is actually something of an addiction for me, a film I have to rewatch at least once a year or so in order to feel that all is right with the universe, to remind me that even with all the problems of the planet earth, at least its female humans don’t play too hard to get.

  

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Weekend Box Office: “Tangled” enjoying good hair and $ days, a “Warrior” doesn’t get its way, but “Black Swan” is no ugly duckling

Everything pretty much is working out at this weekend’s box office as was predicted Thursday night. The exception being that, as a whole, the post-Thanksgiving Day letdown may be slightly bigger than expected. To be specific, as prognosticators prognosticated, Disney’s “Tangled” led the box office derby.

Showing the usual strength of well-received family-animated comedies, the film formerly known as “Rapunzel” earned an estimated $21.5 million over the weekend. The less than thrilling news here is that, as calculated by Box Office Mojo‘s indispensable weekend chart, it suffered a rather larger than usual second weekend drop for its genre of 55.9%. Still, I’m guessing we can attribute some of that to the post-holiday doldrums.

Tangled up in Rapunzel

On the sunny side of the equation, the musical action comedy is already very close to the $100 million in its second weekend, and that’s never bad. On the other hand, the typically enormous CGI animation budget of $260 million makes that kind of number seem a hair less impressive. On the other other hand, when you consider not only the the worldwide box office, but the licensing, I think it’s fair to say that “Tangled” will be another profitable feather in the ever-more-humongous Disney cap.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Box office preview: It’s the boy-who-lived versus the-girl-with-the-hair

Yep, though there is only one new major release, the real action this weekend is going to be between the two very strong holdovers: the third week of Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” and week #2 of “Tangled,” which may be well on its way to reviving Disney’s supposedly endangered princess brand. Figuring out which will emerge on top i’s really a matter of how much the respective films drop off and, as jolly Carl DiOrio wisely admits, involves a big guess. Still, he and Ben Fritz seem to agree that power-haired Rapunzel has some slight edge over horcrux-seeking Harry.

Both films did roughly equivalent business last weekend, though the Potter juggernaut earning extremely well over the entire Thanksgiving period. Still, family animated comedies traditionally have great holds, while the madness of the Potter fans generally makes for huge openings with huge drop-offs to follow. Fritz expects about $18 million for the Potter film and about a 50% drop off for “Tangled,” which I guess would mean roughly $23-25 million or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if the drop-off were small, though post-holiday doldrums could also hamper overall box office this weekend.

This week’s one major new release, a martial arts fantasy shot in New Zealand but set in a sort of Never-Never land version of the American West, “The Warrior’s Way,” is opening in a relatively very modest 1600 theaters. That’s probably a good thing because the film, which was made independently but is being distributed by upstartish Relativity Media, doesn’t appear to be generating any excitement. It’s been in the can for some time, though it boasts an interesting cast including Geoffrey Rush and Danny Huston in supporting roles as well as Kate Bosworth and talented Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun (“Typhoon“), whose been compared to Johnny Depp, as the butt-kicking super-swordsman lead.

The Warrior's Way

In an attempt to square the marketing circle, members of the press were shown clips from the film, wined and dined (in this case saki’d and sushi’d as the post-not-screening reception was held at an apparently very good Japanese restaurant) and allowed to interview some of the stars — including, in my case, Tony Cox of “Bad Santa” and “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnussus.” We’ll see how well the approach works. Ben Fritz is extremely pessimistic about its chances, jolly Carl is more jolly, but even he admits it’ll be somewhat lucky to break $10 million. This one’s best hope might be in the international market, but the refusal to show the film in its entirety to the press should be a tell to wary audiences.

There’s more because, as awards season heats up, several very interesting films are opening in limited release. Among them is “I Love You Phillip Morris.” It’s the long delayed but well-regarded same-sex romantic comedy and true-crime tale with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers on the run. Also opening in a relatively aggressive 18 theaters is a very likely Oscar contender and already one of the most discussed genre-blending films of the year, “Black Swan.” It’s being described frequently as Powell and Pressberger’s “The Red Shoes” meets Polanski’s “Repulsion” and that’s good enough for me. More about that to come, for sure.

Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in

  

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Trailer for a Friday morning: “I Love You, Phillip Morris”

It’s looking like those of us who gay panicked their way into an excuse to avoid “Brokeback Mountain” will have a new quality film to miss for no good reason, and this film, which recently escaped from a distribution limbo, appears to be very funny indeed. If you dare — or if you’re a woman or an actual person with teh gay — check out this trailer that features some very funny and relatively explicit sexuality and language between stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. This could easily be one of the year’s more memorable films. Man up or miss out. Also, if you absolutely need to focus on a hetero thought, Leslie Mann (a woman, also Mrs. Judd Apatow) is actually kind of insanely adorable in this trailer as Carrey’s Christian ex-wife.

Oh, and before I saw this trailer, I somehow figured that the corporation best known for its tobacco products would somehow figure in the story. It’s still kind of an odd name for Ewan McGregor’s character, though.

H/t Screencrave.

  

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