DVD & BLU-RAY
FlixWorthy: We've Got A Couple Of Trains To Catch
Author: David Wharton
published: 2010-02-22 18:05:09
Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Each Monday FlixWorthy dives headfirst into Netflix's streaming catalogue and surfaces with a handful of new or notable selections for your amusement and edification. Sometimes it'll be classics, sometimes it'll be little-seen gems, sometimes it'll be shows you might have missed, and sometimes...sometimes it'll be crap so awful it simply has to be seen to be believed. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.
The Taking of Pelham 123
(2009, Rated R)
Adapting a 1973 thriller novel by the awesomely named Morton Freedgood, The Taking of Pelham 123 casts Denzel Washington as a troubled MTA employee who winds up matching wits with a team of hijackers who take a New York subway car hostage. Leading the team of crooks is bitter and be-tatted Ryder (John Travolta), who demands $10 million in 60 minutes or he'll start killing the captive passengers. Most of the film unfolds as a dialogue over the radio between Ryder and Washington's Walter Garber after Ryder pegs Garber as a kindred spirit wronged by the system. If that doesn't sound terribly cinematic to you, well, you wouldn't be wrong. Surprisingly, though, the ongoing conversation between Garber and Ryder is the best part of the movie. Working off a script by Brian Helgeland (Man on Fire), Washington and Travolta wring a surprising amount of tension out of such a static set-up, but as CinemaBlend head honcho Josh pointed out in his review, the movie falters when it veers away from this duel of characterization. It's a Tony Scott movie, so you know there's going to be plenty of quick-cut sound and fury, and in this case that mostly involves shots of helicopters and cop cars attempting to transport Ryder's money across town...which is of course nowhere near as easy as it sounds. It's a passable thriller, Washington is always good even in bad movies, and Travolta is in full "gleeful villain" mode (see: Broken Arrow, Swordfish).
Double-Feature It With...
Broken Arrow. Saw that one coming, did you? After watching Travolta in the aforementioned gleeful-villain mode, why not revisit the movie that best exemplifies G.V.T.? Journey back to a simpler time, a time when John Woo's movies were ridiculous, but not quite yet Face/Off ridiculous, and when Christian Slater was still a movie star, sort of. Catch it soon, it's only available until March 11th.
(2009, Not Rated)
This one's a shot in the dark, but the Netflix plot synopsis and the wicked-looking poster have me intrigued. I know nothing about filmmaker Travis Betz, but the fact that he's made a horror-comedy about a guy who teams up with an agent of Hell to rescue his girlfriend who's been kidnapped by demons suggests that he would fit right in at one of my cocktail parties. If I, you know, actually hosted cocktail parties. I did once host a cockatiel party, but that was murder on the berber. What was I talking about? Right, Lo, which is both the name of the movie and the name of the possibly-not-as-helpful-as-he-seems demon who offers to help Justin (Ward Roberts) retrieve his wayward significant other. The user comments on Netflix are split right down the middle between this being trippy fun or utter dreck, but seriously, that poster buys at least 10 minutes of my time.
Double-Feature It With...
Alone in the Dark II
Yeah, Alone in the Dark II has pretty much nothing to do with Lo, aside from the broad notion of unsavory demonic critters, but I just couldn't resist listing it here. The entire notion of a sequel to a Uwe Boll movie fascinates me. In theory you have nowhere to go but up, right? But if the filmmakers overcome that hurdle and actually manage to make a worse Alone in the Dark movie than Boll did...well, that's an accomplishment in and of itself.
(1999, Rated R)
Otherwise known as "Russell Crowe's portly Oscar grab." Following the time-honored strategy of preternaturally attractive actors and actresses everywhere, Crowe hid his Olympian physique and chiseled good looks behind a layer of flab to portray whistle-blowing tobacco exec Jeffrey Wigand. Based on the Vanity Fair article "The Man Who Knew Too Much," The Insider follows the relationship between Wigand and 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) as the two attempt to blow the lid off of some of Big Tobacco's shadier practices. After making an impression on American audiences as blunt instrument Bud White in L.A. Confidential, The Insider was Crowe's chance to prove that his acting chops extended beyond playing brooding, broken meatheads. And prove it he did, earning an Oscar nomination for his performance (and the film also garnered a half-dozen other nominations). Still sitting at 95% fresh on RottenTomatoes, The Insider is smartly written and boasts solid performances across the board and director Michael Mann at his Mann-liest.
Double-Feature It With:
Why not match up The Insider with another similarly titled corporate thriller? The International isn't nearly as good a movie, but at least lead Clive Owen keeps his fighting trim as he attempts to foil the machinations of nefarious bankers. Also, Naomi Watts is purty and you get a gunfight in the Guggenheim that's a textbook case of how to stage a kick-ass action sequence.
Thirtysomething: Season 1
(1987, Not Rated)
Thirtysomething was the talk of the town back in the day. That day being 1987, at which point I was nine years old. Unsurprisingly, compelling dramas about yuppies were not high on my list of entertainment pursuits at the time, largely because they never teamed up with G.I. Joe. Still, if you're craving family drama with an '80s sheen (no, not that one), thirtysomething is a safe bet. The show was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the executive producers of one of the best teen dramas ever (and the origin of my lingering crush on Claire Danes), My So-Called Life. Between that cult classic and the underappreciated family drama that was Once and Again, these guys know their way around a serialized narrative. And the show took home a string of Emmys to prove it.
Double-Feature It With:
Thirtysomething: Season 2
Because if you like the show at all, why stop with one season? Only the first two seasons are available right now, but they're both available streaming. Season 3 is scheduled to hit DVD this May, so hopefully they'll add it to the streaming library then.
Flame and Citron
(2008, Not Rated, HD)
Copenhagen, 1944. There's something rotten in Denmark. (Hint: It's Nazis.) Despite what you might think, Flame and Citron is not a combustible mixed drink, but rather a spy thriller about two real-life Danish resistance fighters. Flame (Thure Lindhart) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) have made their name by snuffing traitors and Nazi sympathizers, but they find their moral imperative challenged when they're tasked with killing Flame's lover (Stine Stengade). The film played numerous film festivals and finally earned a limited theatrical release this past July. CinemaBlend reviewer J.D. McNamara gave it four stars back in 2008, and you can read his review right here. It's also rocking an 86% fresh rating at RT and averaging a 3.7 user rating on Netflix. Most of us probably haven't even heard of Flame and Citron, but maybe we should have.
Double-Feature It With:
From a gritty war thriller in Denmark, let's hop on over to a deadpan comedy in Norway. O'Horten is an odd little film about a 67-year-old train conductor named Odd (Baard Owe) who has a series of strange adventures on the eve of his retirement. Written and directed by Bent Hamer (Factotum), the film boasts an impressive 100% fresh rating with top critics on RT. And I totally just realized that I unintentionally started and finished this week's column with movies involving trains. Crazy, man.
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