It’s the first of the month, which means there is a crazy amount of turnover on Netflix Instant Watch this week. There’s definitely something for everybody, take a look:
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974 | Feb 6th | R)
Flickchart Ranking: #651
Sooner or later, everybody runs. Even if they’re one of the biggest movie stars on the face of the planet. For this edition of Reel Rumbles, grab your popcorn and prepare for the run of your life as we go on the lam with Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise in an attempt to prove their innocence (and cinematic superiority) with The Fugitive vs. Minority Report.
These two thrillers both feature a cinema superstar accused of murder and on the run from the law. One is a tense cat-and-mouse game between a surgeon out to find his wife’s real killer and the dogged U.S. Marshal on his tail; the other is set in the not-so-distant future, and features a law enforcement officer trying to clear himself of a murder that hasn’t even been committed yet. One is an almost unexpected masterwork from a director whose other best-known credits are the Steven Seagal vehicle Under Siege and a Coast Guard movie starring Ashton Kutcher. The other is a superb thriller-with-a-sci-fi-twist from one of cinema’s greatest living legends that, despite how great it is, somehow still doesn’t seem to quite match some of the director’s previous cinematic efforts.
So which is better? Run–don’t walk–into the Reel Rumbles ring and find out…
Here are this week’s new DVD, Blu-ray, and Netflix Instant Watch titles. Obviously, Thursday’s Avatar release is the highlight of the week but the overall slate of releases is strong as well. Select films will include their Flickchart global statistics (where available), as well as three direct links to rank the title against similar movies (one good, one average and one bad) to help nail down where the movie belongs on your chart.
Avatar – (Thursday, April 22 – Blu-Ray and DVD)
I broke a 32-month theater-free streak to see this one. Yeah, the tickets were free, but the effort of getting off the warm couch on a cold Midwestern Winter morning shows you the influence this one had on casual theater goers (I watch at least 2 movies a day, but usually from the comfort of my house). It’s a decent movie, but it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays on the small screen when you’ll focus more on the story than the visuals. You might want to exercise some caution buying this bare-bones disc, as a four-disc set is coming in November – although apparently there will be special codes in the box that will let you watch all the upcoming special features online over the coming months.
Since the early twentieth century, greed has been a subject to fascinate filmmakers and movie audiences alike. It is a vice that can turn normal men into monsters. Like a plague, it spreads ever so easily to destroy the Host and the Innocent. The most notable starting point of greed on film is in Erich von Stroheim’s silent work Greed (1924). Famous for its original ten-hour length, which was obliterated much to the director’s chagrin by over seven hours worth of cuts, Greed explored in much detail how destructive the abstract can be. In this week’s Reel Rumbles, the wages of greed are examined further by two modern classics, adaptations of the literary works of Upton Sinclair (Oil!) and Cormac McCarthy. Lie to friends, horde your wealth, and steal from family members – it’s time for No Country for Old Men vs. There Will Be Blood.
I think of myself as a Coen Brothers fan. Honestly, I do, even though I’ve never seen Fargo, their supposed masterpiece — a fact that might lose me a fair amount of readership before I even get to the end of this sentence (still here?). The Big Lebowski will undoubtedly be in my top 10 movies of all time when the dust settles (it’s currently at #11), and O Brother Where Art Thou will probably be in my top 100. The Ladykillers — although it likely won’t make an appearance in my top 250 — was entertaining enough.
Well, make room for No Country For Old Men. Make room to see it at the theater. Make room for it in your DVD collection. Make room for it in your list of the greatest all-time movies. Really, it’s that good.
No Country is set in Texas in 1980. The anchor of the story, as intimated in the movie trailer, is a satchel of drug money carried home by Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) after he finds it near the corpse-strewn site of an ill-fated drug deal. Turns out somebody was interested in getting their money back, surprisingly enough, and it’s not long before Moss is on the run from the bad-news collections man, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Chigurh hunts for Moss and his satchel in a manner so methodical and unrelenting that it saturates every little nook of the movie with an all-enveloping tension and dread. The pacing of the pursuit is alternately swift and measured, depending on what befalls each of the men as their respective paths meander toward an eventual intersection.
But despite the gunfire, the chases, the struggles, and the occasional explosion, what gripped me the most was the quiet: the “space between.” It’s there, just behind the weathered voice of Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) telling us about how the lawmen used to be in those parts, in those desert towns near where he grew up. It’s there, as Moss hunts a pack of deer in the desert with his rifle, in every click… of… his… scope… as he calibrates his aim, never moving his eyes from his living target, with only a light breeze as an aural backdrop. The closest touchstone here might be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: recall the opening scene, unveiling an empty landscape of desert and wind, until a second later, a man’s close-up face, lined and stubbled, swings crisply into view, and for three or four seconds he simply stares — right through the camera, at the horizon behind you. Such it is with No Country For Old Men: an excellent story, told at the pace that fits it, never rushing, dwelling on all the right details, and free of the cinematic artifice (like heavy-handed scores) that too often serves to remind you that, oh yeah, this is just a movie.
Every one of the characters in the film is terrific; not just Jones’ aging sheriff, Brolin’s go-it-alone everyman, Harrelson’s too-smart bounty hunter, and Kelly Macdonald’s role as Moss’s wife, but all of the incidental characters we happen upon along the way. It’s the canvas of everyday folk — from the gas station owner to the manager of Moss’s trailer park — that undergirds the film’s fundamental believability.
Of all of them, though, I’d be willing to bet that one will stick in your mind more than any other: Bardem’s Anton Chigurh. He’s the rare bad guy who stands apart from all the other bad guys you’ve ever seen, who is so different — in his posture, his idioms, his tone of voice, his method of killing, and his uniquely twisted sense of ethics — that he trods deftly through the minefield of antagonist cliches so well stocked by those before him, and becomes a template all his own. The fear of this guy comes not only from the fact that he murders without guilt or even that he seems to like it, but that he sees it as his duty, and that clemency might arbitrarily be granted by the unseen workings of a mind gone wrong, and can hinge — clad in the armor of moral certainty — on no more than coin toss.
Did I say that Fargo is considered the Coen Brothers’ finest work? Oops. A fair amount of reportage says the 1996 movie might’ve just defaulted to the title of runner-up, has-been, also-ran. I know that hurts to hear, dear Fargo people; and maybe the zeitgeist has it all wrong. Maybe this is a case of the new and shiny getting top billing over the…well, 1996, all deeper quality issues aside. But why listen to anyone else? Do what I plan to do: Hit the theater, if you haven’t seen No Country yet; pull out the DVD of Fargo, if you haven’t seen it recently; watch them both. Weigh their relative merits. And then call it. Friend-o.
If No Country For Old Men ain’t the Coens’ masterpiece, it’ll do till the masterpiece gets here.