Most of the movies and TV series I watch come from my Netflix Instant Queue. It has been my go to for over five years now. I like to use it to find hidden gems, but not everyone wants to commit two hours of their free time to a decent looking movie poster. I’ve watched a ton of garbage over the years, but have missed even more, so there’s always something I want to watch, whether it’s revisiting an old favorite, or finally catching something I missed over the years. Instant Cinefessions will list some weekly recommendations based on what’s new on the Netflix service. It will also include my “Pull List”, which are films I’m interested in watching in the coming weeks. Look for reviews of the movies in my pull list in future columns. Also featured are brief reviews of films I’ve watched off the Pull List.
Ashe’s Seal of Approval
These are the latest films that hit Netflix in the last week that get my seal of approval. There was a glut of releases today, mostly from the LMN (Lifetime Movie Network), and unfortunately, I can only recommend one film. This is the only one, out of the 40 new films to hit the service in the last week, that I’ve seen, but, fortunately, I really enjoyed it.
Sliding Doors (1998, dir. Peter Howitt)
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts in the Iron Man films) and John Hannah (who I loved in the Mummy films), this film is about two realities created when Gwyneth’s character, Helen, takes two separate paths. One is where she catches a train, finds her husband cheating on her, and leaves his ass. The other is where she misses the train, and sticks with him. We get to see both realities play out through the course of the film, and it’s an interesting look at relationships and chance happenings that can improve our lives. This is more of a romance and cuddle flick that I ended up watching for the science fiction aspect of alternate realities, but was pleasantly surprised by everything else that came along with it.
Ashe’s Pull List
This is an updated list of the films I haven’t seen, but want to. Look for reviews of some of these in future issues of Instant Cinefessions. Don’t be surprised if I don’t end up clearing out this entire list either. Even I can be picky sometimes. Here are the new ones out of the 40 films to hit Netflix this week that I added to the Pull List.
Daawat-e-Ishq (2014), The Winning Season (2009), Automata (2014), Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006), Steve Trivino: Relatable (2014), Wetlands (2013), Viktor (2014), Secrets in the Walls (2010), Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy (2011), Stalkers (2013), The Eleventh Victim (2012), The Killing Game (2011), The Pregnancy Project (2012), Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story (2011)
Ashe’s Picks of the Week
So what did I watch off Netflix this week? Well, amazingly enough, for my first week out, every film I watched off Netflix came from my Pull List, which is why the list lost a few entries. I’m going to list these in the order I watched them, not necessarily in the order of preference. Here we go.
Neverlake (2013, dir. Riccardo Paoletti)
Nerverlake is a supernatural and body horror flick all rolled into one. This actually combines a lot of different elements, some more successfully than others, and there is a slow burn as pieces fall into place. Once thee pieces land, the pace picks up and never relents. While a few plot points don’t gel well together, this is extremely well acted and has some great visuals as well. If you’re into supernatural horror, thrillers, or even a bit of body horror, you may want to giveNeverlake a shot.
Venom (2005, dir. Jim Gillespie)
Chris actually recommended this one, so after Neverlake, I gave it a shot. Venom was way better than I thought it’d be. It’s shot really well, the effects are mostly convincing, and there’s this sense of something nasty lurking throughout the film. It lost me a little bit at the end because the lead starts making some dumb moves. The other thing that bugged the crap out of me was the quick cuts they kept doing to try to force this otherworldly feeling to the main slasher. We were already getting those vibes by the way they lit the scenes, his movement, and ability. Overall, though, Venom is a fun and thought out slasher.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014, dir. Kenneth Branagh)
This didn’t get heavily advertised in my area. In fact, the only reason I even knew it was coming out was a single, solitary poster at the theater. So you’ll have to forgive me for not rushing out to see another reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise. While this had some decent potential, and I really do like the cast, it’s a very trimmed down version of the political thrillers we usually get with the Jack Ryan series. The overall plot feels really simplistic compared to the previous films, and not being based off any novel in particular didn’t help. The cast does great with what they have, and it is entertaining even though it feels way too simplistic. As a re-introduction for Ryan goes, it’s not too bad. Just don’t go in expecting the same depth as we got with Clear and Present Danger or even The Hunt for Red October.
Lust of the Dead (2012, dir. Naoyuki Tomomatsu)
I’m not sure what they were trying to accomplish with this film. If they were going for something that’s pretty much unwatchable, they’ve succeeded. It feels like they were trying to make a softcore porn flick, then decided that they could make it into a pseudo-horror film, but then didn’t give it a better budget, or a script, or anyone that could really act. Fifteen minutes in I couldn’t think of a single reason to keep watching, other than for this issue of Instant Cinefessions. The effects look awful, the gore isn’t very good, and while I appreciated that they picked some really good looking women for the film, it’s not enough to save it from being abysmal.
The Scorpion King 4: The Quest for Power (2015, dir. Mike Elliott)
Well, it wasn’t as bad as the second film, but was on par with the third film. It’s not terrible, nor is it great. Scorpion King 4 is pretty much the height of mediocrity of fantasy flicks. The film spends way too long trying to convince the audience that magic isn’t real after all the other films in the series, including the Mummy films, say otherwise. It’s a bit too long, but it has some decent enough stunts to go along with the ones that are obviously wire work. There are also some funny moments coupled with moments that just don’t work. There are a couple of big names plastered at the top of the poster like they’re the main attraction, but are just cameos. The biggest problem with these sequels is that The Rock isn’t playing Mathayus in any of them, and given the quality of them, he’s probably very grateful. While Victor Webster is charming and mostly believable in the role, he’s no Dwayne Johnson.
The French Connection (1971, dir. William Friedkin)
I’ve heard this one mentioned over the years as one of the better crime dramas and that it had one of the best chase scenes involving Hackman racing against an elevated train to get to its stop first. While I think it’s a terrible thing to rate a film on, the rest of the film more than makes it “just” a car chase. The director here would go on to direct one of my favorite horror films, The Exorcist, and there’s a very gritty sense of realism to this and that film. The only real complaint I have is that the blood in this never seems right. Hackman and Scheider are great in their respective roles, and this being based off a true story certainly adds an element to the film. Overall, I’m glad I’ve seen it now and can scratch it off my rather embarrassing Cinefessions list of films I haven’t seen yet.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, dir. Terry Gilliam)
Scratch another off the pull list, and another off my unofficial Cinefessions list that I should have watched but never got around to. There is definitely an audience for this film, and I’ll just say I’m not it. While I thought the acting was fantastic and the situations perfectly preposterous for a dark comedy, I haven’t read Hunter S. Thompson’s original story this was based on, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas just didn’t grab me. The visuals fit the meandering storytelling perfectly, and the music was well chosen, but I just couldn’t get into it. It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you like Terry Gilliam’s other films, and it’s just not going to remotely appeal to everyone at all. That’s probably why it’s a cult classic.
Make sure to check back next week for more reviews and recommendations from Netflix Instant Queue in Issue 02 of Instant Cinefessions!