New on Netflix Instant: Oscar winning documentary 'Undefeated' arrives same week as disc
Plus 'Safety Not Guaranteed' and more offbeat comedies, along with foreign and cult movies
"Undefeated" (2011), the Oscar winner for Best Documentary last year, arrives on Netflix Instant the same day as Blu-ray and DVD. "You do not have to be a fan of sports to appreciate great sportswriting," writes MSN film critic James Rocchi in his rave review. "And the biggest compliment I can give the Oscar-nominated documentary "Undefeated" is that it feels like great sportswriting. Directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, who previously filmed the world of sport in the probably less-affecting "Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong," "Undefeated" is about the Manassas Tigers of Memphis, Tenn., as coached by Bill Courtney. Early on, Courtney tells his charges, "You think football builds character? It does not. Football reveals character." And so, too, does "Undefeated.""
The indie romantic comedy "Safety Not Guaranteed" (2012) stars Aubrey Plaza as a sardonic newspaper intern in Seattle who follows a classified ad searching for a partner in a time travel trip and finds Mark Duplass at the other end of it. The film won the screenwriting award at Sundance. "Time-traveling becomes a nifty metaphor for the universal desire for second chances," writes MSN film critic Kat Murphy. But she complains that the "characters don't have relationships; they bounce off or stick to each other either in predictable or utterly random ways."
"Teddy Bear" (2012), the Danish drama starring Kim Kold as a shy bodybuilder who goes to Thailand hoping to meet a girl, arrives in conjunction with its release on disc. "The old trope of the gentle giant looking for love gets a spare-looking, kind-hearted sprucing-up by Danish director Mads Matthiesen," writes New York Post film critic Farran Smith Nehme. "It’s wonderful to see an actor like Kold take over a screen not with his body, but with quiet, precisely calibrated facial reactions, often using just his eyes."
"About Adam" (2000) makes the case for the virtue of infidelity. Sort of. Stuart Townsend plays a seductively handsome stranger in Dublin who dates bubbly blonde heartbreaker Kate Hudson, seduces her sisters Frances O’Connor and Charlotte Bradley, and even gets close her brother, yet never loses his charming mix of innocence and knowing worldliness. While writer/director Gerald Stembridge avoids the potential bite and ambiguity in his transformation of the story from barbed social satire to romantic comedy, his sheer romantic innocence that makes it surprisingly sweet, innocent, and infectious.
"Nacho Libre" (2006), from "Napoleon Dynamite" director Jared Hess, stars Jack Black as a junior monk in a Mexican monastery who embarks on a double life as a masked wrestler to raise money for the orphans. Hess colors the film with his askew sensibility that twists the slapstick into an oddball realm of droll humor that favors the eccentric over the hilarious, but it’s far too subdued for its madcap milieu.
Also in the "Napoleon Dynamite" realm of askew humor is the New Zealand comedy "Eagle vs. Shark" (2007), with Loren Horsley as a lovesick fast-food clerk infatuated with self-aggrandizing video nerd Jemaine Clement. More offbeat than funny, Taika Waititi's geek love story is even more low key than its inspiration but not as clever, though his animated interludes are quite entertaining.
"The Doom Generation" (1995), the breakthrough film from Gregg Araki, stars Rose McGowan, James Duvall, and Jonathon Schaech as punk lovers-on-the-run who form a bisexual trio of rebels. It's a jet-black satire liberally littered with violence (they can't make a fast food run without someone getting killed) and wildly exaggerated road movie melodrama.
"Home" (2008) is an eccentric drama about a family that finds a kind of peace living on an unused stretch of highway until the road is suddenly opened to traffic. Which is when Ursula Meier's film turns downright surreal, a warped parody of urban living pushed to insanity that the family endures to accommodate a fragile wife and mother (Isabelle Huppert) who refuses to move. Somehow Meier and the cast (including the superb Olivier Gourmet) make the mad ordeal fascinating.
"Korczak" (1990), Andrzej Wajda's drama about the fiercely-devoted Polish activist for children's rights who refused to abandon his orphans when the Nazis invaded, is one of the unsung classics of Holocaust cinema. Written by Agnieszka Holland and shot in stark black and white by Robbie Muller, it is powerful stuff and there is no happy ending, despite the clearly metaphorical fantasy of the final image. It's really a kindness to the audience more than anything else, a release from the inevitability of history.
Masaki Kobayashi’s samurai drama "Harakiri" (1962) is less an adventure than an indictment of hypocrisy hiding behind a code of honor. Tatsuya Nakadai plays an unemployed samurai who arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi to commit ritual suicide on his property, but first he has a story to tell. It's a doozy of a tale and it has a killer ending.
In "Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards" (1963), Japanese genre maverick Seijun Suzuki and super-cool (and slightly goofy) leading man Jo Shishido turn a B-movie yakuza potboiler into a wildly entertaining crime goof. It's a by-the-numbers script with crazy twists but Suzuki energizes it with cinematic energy, crazy color and a bright, brassy jazz-pop score, and Shishido takes time out to jump into a nightclub duet. Junk genre cinema at its most nutty fun.
Curtis Harrington’s eerie little psychological fantasy "Night Tide" (1963) features Dennis Hopper as a lonely sailor who falls in love with a young woman who believes herself to be a siren destined to return to the sea (she makes her living posing as a mermaid in a sideshow). Dreamy imagery and atmospheric location shooting imparts a strange ambiance to this "Twilight Zone"-ish little piece.
Marianne Faithfull is "Girl on a Motorcycle" (1968) in this psychedelic 1968 odyssey of one woman's sexual liberation. It's full of extended flashbacks, sexual fantasies, and kitschy psychedelic imagery --the screen turns purple and orange and green whenever she's making love with seductive literature professor Alain Delon, which has the unintended effect of turning sex into a bad psychedelic trip -- with stream-of-consciousness narration filling in the rest. Very much a product of its time.
There are also three films from Italian horror stylist Mario Bava -- "5 Dolls for an August Moon" (1970), a mod take on Agatha Christie’s "Ten Little Indians" as a swinging weekend on a private island retreat with a body count; "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" (1970), about a bridal fashion designer who gleefully kills young brides as a form of radical therapy; and his final film, the gritty thriller "Kidnapped" (1974) -- and "The Iron Rose" (1973) from French erotic horror specialist Jean Rollin.