New on Netflix Instant: 'Don't Be Afraid' of 'The Killer Elite'
Plus 'Letters" from Eastwood, 'Adaptation' from Jonze and Kaufman, and more
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (2011), from producer/screenwriter Guillermo del Toro, is a remake of the 1973 haunted house TV movie. "Del Toro's additions to the script -- written alongside collaborator Matthew Robbins -- make the new iteration of the film more in line with his cinematic universe of dark fantasy, where creepy homes are explored by little kids wrapped up shroud-tight in the tenuous membrane between daylight reality and dimly lit nightmare," observes MSN film critic James Rocchi. "They also make it better." Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce star.
"The Killer Elite" (2001) is not a remake of the Sam Peckinpah thriller but it does pit elite killers in a fight to the death. Jason Statham stars as a retired contract killer who teams up with his mentor (Robert DeNiro) to hunt down the leader (Clive Owen) of a secret military society of assassins. It's supposedly based on a true story, though this globe-trotting thriller is moved from the 1980s of the book to the modern geopolitical landscape. MSN film critic Glenn Kenny calls it "quite the cliché-ridden desultory mess."
Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" (2007) is a thoughtful portrait of the battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the defending Japanese army, a sympathetic look at a military culture at war with itself and the soldiers and officers sacrificed to notions of honor that seem alien today. An American film shot almost entirely in Japanese, and it earned a surprising four Oscar nominations (including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay) and even better reviews than "Flags of Our Fathers," which viewed the battle from the American perspective.
"Tyrannosaur" (2011), the directorial debut of Paddy Considine, is a showcase for actors Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. He's a rage-filled drunk angry at the world but pulled back by abused middle-class wife Colman, who gives a painfully beautiful performance. This is steeped in British miserablism, set in the warzone of poverty and neglect and crime, and the redemption is all in the characters and the performance. Powerful stuff.
"Adaptation" (2002), the second headgame collaboration between Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, makes a nice follow-up to this week's Criterion release of "Being John Malkovich." Nicolas Cage plays both "Charlie Kaufman," a cynical, depressed screenwriter who spirals into doubt while trying to adapt an unadaptable book – "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean (played by Meryl Streep) -- and his glib, confident, and sweet (completely imaginary) twin brother Donald. Chris Cooper won his first Oscar as the grimy charmer John Laroche (the orchid thief himself).
And for some more familiar movie comfort food you can always revisit these favorite, now available for streaming: "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), for the romantic moods; "Scent of a Woman" (1992), for a hit of Pacino; "Steel Magnolias" (1989), for some girl time; and "Top Gun" (1986), for a little Tom Cruise testosterone.
"Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)" (2006) profiles singer, songwriter and creative wildman Harry Nilsson, who never performed concerts yet was once the golden boy of American pop music and one of the most respected talents in the industry. John Sheinfeld's portrait revisits the man, the artist and the reputation and features a wealth of rare TV performance clips.
"Theater of War" (2008) takes viewers through the process of creation on the 2006 Public Theater production of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children," starring Meryl Streep as Mother Courage. In addition to rehearsal footage, interviews with the cast and creators and scenes from the performances, we get a history of the play, background on Brecht and reflections on the relationship between art and society.
Also new is "Kimjongilia" (2009), a satirical look at the cult of personality created by King Jong-il in North Korea, and "The Gates" (2005), about Christo and Jeanne Claude's art instillation in New York City.