Hidden Netflix Gems – Southland Tales

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.

Most viewers, even those who eventually became its biggest fans, initially found Richard Kelly‘s debut feature, Donnie Darko, to be strange, convoluted and challenging to fully comprehend on a single viewing. However, compared to his 2006 follow-up, Southland Tales, Darko now seems like Where’s Waldo? Perhaps the absolute craziest film ever made, Southland Tales is a wild ride through pre-apocalyptic paranoia, fevered hallucinations and madness that really defies any kind of classification. It is pulpy, surreal, funny, political and, above all, very weird. I won’t try to convince anyone that this film is a success, per se, but its wild ambition and complete originality make it well worth a look.

Southland Tales takes place in a near-future alternate reality, after nuclear attacks taking place on the fourth of July, 2005, have begun World War III. Post-9/11-style paranoia abounds, and the world is in a far-reaching energy crisis, which the wealthy Baron Von Westphalen (Wallace Shawn) is attempting to alleviate with his new energy generator, Fluid Karma, which uses the ocean’s currents as a power source. The only problem with Fluid Karma is that it is altering these currents, causing the earth to slow its rotation, and ripping holes in the space-time continuum. This space-time rift seems to be particularly felt in the criss-crossed destinies of the film’s main characters: Boxer Santaros, aka Jericho Cane (Dwayne Johnson), an amnesiac action star who may have become the main character of his own screenplay; Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a porn star and social activist who co-wrote the screenplay with Boxer; and Roland Taverner (Seann William Scott), a cop who may or may not also be his own twin brother, Ronald.

Does that all make sense? Obviously, not even close, and believe me, there’s much, much more going on in Southland Tales, including but not limited to: a brilliantly strange musical interlude featuring Justin Timberlake in a blood-soaked T-shirt; a neo-Marxist conspiracy involving no fewer than four former Saturday Night Live cast members (Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn, Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler); and, of course, that screenplay written by Boxer and Krysta, which may or may not foretell the end of the world as we know it. For good measure, the film also features Kevin Smith as a mad scientist and Christopher Lambert as an illegal arms dealer who sells his wares out of an ice cream truck, as well as hilarious philosophical dialogue like “Teen horniness is not a crime,” and “Pimps don’t commit suicide.” Southland Tales is gloriously chaotic and incoherent, similar to being plunged headfirst into the fever dream of a stoned pop-culture addict. It doesn’t completely make sense, even after multiple viewings, but it is an endlessly fascinating mess.

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

Hidden Netflix Gems – The Boys Next Door

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.

The second narrative feature from director Penelope Spheeris – who is perhaps best known for helming the best Saturday Night Live movie of all time, Wayne’s World – is a quintessentially ’80s movie, from its squealing guitar-heavy soundtrack to its fetishization of 1950s greaser attitude. It is also compelling, tense and rather brutal, and though it seems to be reaching for relevant social commentary, it never sacrifices its pure entertainment value for this higher goal. This is a film that knows what it does well and sets about doing just that, without pretension.

The Boys Next Door stars a young, pre-“passion,” Charlie Sheen as Bo Richards, a high school outcast whose only real friend is the even more ostracized Roy Alston (Maxwell Caulfield). After a gripping opening credits sequence featuring pictures and voice-over narration of various well-known mass murderers, including David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz and Kenneth “Hillside Strangler” Bianchi, the pair are introduced playing a childish prank on their high school on the last day of their senior year. Faced with nothing better than a future of low-wage labor at a nearby factory, the two crash and basically ruin a party attended by the more popular kids before hitting the streets of L.A. to try and pick up girls by yelling at them from their car windows, with all the success such a method usually brings. Before long, they vent their sexual and social frustrations in a series of increasingly violent acts that escalate from assault to multiple murders in the span of a few hours.

It is interesting to think of Bo and Roy in parallel to Spheeris’ most famous protagonists, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) from Wayne’s World. Here, as in that film, we have a dark-haired youth (Bo), who is the smarter and less socially awkward of the two, paired with a blonde guy (Roy), of whom he seems to take care in many ways. Relatively early in the film we see Roy having a one-sided conversation with his neglectful, drunken father (Ron Ross) before hitting the town with Bo, who is shown time and again to have a stronger connection to the world of normal, socially accepted people. In its depiction of the frustrations and alienation that lead to extreme, random violence, The Boys Next Door seems to predict some of the most shocking mass murder cases of the past decade or so, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, among others. However, as disturbing as it often gets in its frank depictions of the boys’ unleashed rage, this movie can best be described as a lurid good time; fans of exploitation movies such as The Last House on the Left and Death Wish are especially encouraged to give this one a look.

  

Related Posts

A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Oscar madness kicks into high gear at the DGA and SNL

People who want a real Academy Award horse-race got probably the best possible news last night at the Director’s Guild Awards. As you’ll no doubt be hearing many, many times over the next month or so, the DGA Award for Best Director and the Oscar for Best Director have only not lined up six times in the history of both awards. Also, of course, the directorial Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar often tend to correlate as well because, sometimes rightly but occasionally wrongly, most of the credit for a good movie tends to go to the director.

Those who remained confident that “The Social Network” remained the favorite for an Oscar sweep despite it getting beaten out in the number of Oscar nominations by two films, were given a sharp jolt because the winner last night was not David Fincher, but the extremely talented fact-based-drama specialist Tom Hooper of “The King’s Speech.” Count me among the surprised.

I’ll save for later why I still think the Oscars’ are either movie’s ball game or could easily be a sort split decision. However, in an amusing not quite coincidence, “Social Network” star and Oscar nominee Jessie Eisenberg had a small surprise of his own to reveal as he hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night.

Let’s see Colin Firth pull that off with King George VI. Also, Mark Zuckerberg can’t complain that he was misrepresented in terms of height, at least. H/t Nikki Finke.

The winner in the best documentary DGA category, by the way, was Charles Ferguson of the hugely acclaimed “Inside Job” which might actually guarantee that it won’t win the Best Documentary Oscar, because that’s the way the documentary category often rolls. We’ll see. For you TV fans, I’ll post/paste the complete list of DGA Awards (nice wins for Mick Jackson and Martin Scorsese,) after the flip.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Kristen Wiig follow-up: SNL got the memo

If you type “Kristen Wiig sucks” into Google, the very first link you will see is to a piece I wrote. I am not proud of this.

Here’s the back story: in February of last year, I wrote a rant where I complained about the overexposure of Wiig, who was at one time my favorite new “SNL” cast member. But the exposure itself wasn’t the problem – it was Wiig’s tendency to play characters that, if they showed up at a party you were at, you would leave the party. She never played anyone sweet, or friendly, or even just strange. Her characters all had one thing in common: they were incredibly annoying. And they were in every other skit. I’d had enough, and so I posted “Memo to Saturday Night Live: Kristen Wiig must be stopped.” I wish I had posted that one to Reddit. It would have been huge, though at 162 comments and counting (they’re still coming in, 21 months later), it is easily the biggest response we’ve gotten to anything posted on this site, though John Paulsen’s companion piece, “Gilly: The unfunniest returning SNL character…ever,” is not far behind.

And that’s why I feel so awful. I never intended to be the lightning rod for the ‘Kristen Wiig sucks’ movement, because she doesn’t suck. She’s actually very talented, but has a weakness for playing obnoxious people. But silly me, I should have known that the commenters of the world would not have been as level-headed in their remarks as I attempted to be in my piece. The first wave of comments were all pro-Kristen, telling me I didn’t “get” her (one of my favorite comment cliches, because it’s mostly used when there’s nothing to “get”) or that I had no sense of humor. Slowly, though, people started rallying in my defense, and now, well, it’s a bloodbath. One commenter even said, “I typed ‘Kristen Wiig sucks’ into Google, found this piece.” My first reaction to that was, “Wow, I wish I had the free time to do that.” My second reaction was, “Shit. This is not what I wanted.” All I wanted was for the show to have more balance, and for Wiig to tone down the ‘does it offend you, yeah’ factor to her characters. Bring the “Two A-Holes” skit back, or have her do more impressions (she does a dead perfect Bjork).

Well, she’s still not doing impressions – and the “Two A-Holes” skits remain inexplicably shelved – but it appears that my other prayers have been answered this season. I just watched the episode that Scarlett Johannson hosted, and Kristen had one lead skit (the one-upping Penelope). One. In everything else, she was a co-lead or not in the scene at all, and for me, it made for a much more enjoyable viewing experience, especially since it opens up space for “The Miley Cyrus Show” (my new favorite recurring skit) and Jay Pharoah, who’s got ‘breakout star’ written all over him. If I’m lucky, I’ll never have to see another skit featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kathi Lee Gifford, the woman who can’t keep a secret, and if I’m really lucky, this woman.

Man, is she painful to watch. Ha ha, let’s laugh at the cripple. Jesus.

So thank you, “Saturday Night Live,” for righting the ship. You are now a hundred times more watchable than you were just a few months ago. And Kristen, I’m sorry that my piece became the sounding board for some malicious comments. I just wanted my TV to be more funny. And now it is. Ahhhhhh.

  

Related Posts