Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Netflix on a Nickel

I've watched over 2'000 movies and rated over 1,800 on Netflix. I'm going to save you the hassle of bad movies.

Harlock: Space Pirate
            Space pirates and 70s style mixed with CG anime sums up Harlock: Space Pirate. Directed by Shinji Aramaki and produced by Toei Animation, the film is based on the original 1970s manga and anime TV series.
            The plot of this film is hard to understand. The filmmakers set up this futuristic universe where mankind has overpopulated the galaxy and is slowly dying. Billions of dying people decide to return to Earth, a tiny planet that cannot sustain their numbers.
            An intergalactic war breaks out over who has the right to return to Earth. The winners of the conflict declare Earth a sanctuary that cannot be violated.
            Then enters the mysterious Harlock, an immortal space pirate, whose mission is to return to Earth, and his "mission" is at best a weak plot device. The themes range from conservation to redemption but are never fully explored or carried out. 
            The film is sporadically exciting and full of one-sided space battles, with a convoluted story that fails to deliver. The style is heavily influenced by the 70s, and Harlock: Space Pirate is a beautiful anime, but that is its only redeemable quality. 

            The Sacrament was written, directed and edited by Ti West, who directed The Innkeepers and V/H/S. The film was produced by Eli Roth (Hostel) and is one of the best documentary-style horror films of recent years.
            Three journalists trail a man traveling to an undisclosed location to find his missing sister. Upon entering “Eden Parish” and meeting the community’s leader, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems.
            The film draws upon cult events like Jonestown and Waco to ground the story in reality. While not a fan of the self-shot style, I admit this one was beautifully executed. The cinematography is believable because the characters are professional journalists. The whole cast is excellent, but Gene Jones’s performance as the community leader was especially captivating. Some horror films tend to be slow or uneven in their delivery; The Sacrament is balanced and well paced.
            The Sacrament is a thought-provoking and disturbing film, and I’d recommend fans of the horror and thriller genres to check it out. However, the religious themes might be offensive to some viewers.

Beyond the Black Rainbow
            I've seen some weird, esoteric art films in my life, but Beyond the Black Rainbow is on a whole different level. This film is a twisted journey through madness. Those of you brave enough to watch it will be rewarded by stunning visuals, mind-bending storytelling and an amazing score. The film was written and directed by Panos Cosmatos. Beyond the Black Rainbow was his directorial debut.
            Viewers are reminded of the greats: Kubrick, Stone and Argento. The colors and set design invoke the sci-fi of the late 70s and early 80s. The optical narratives are bold and take leaps most "modern" directors would never fathom to attempt.
            On the surface, it is a story of a trapped girl and her struggle to escape her life. Buried beneath this is a deep, thought-provoking film tackling issues ranging from death to self-hatred to patricide. Also, the director was trying to make a statement on our culture's need to self-improve beyond reason, a desire to make ourselves perfect to extreme levels, and how that corrupts the powerful and victimizes the weak.
            From the beginning to the end, Beyond the Black Rainbow is visually satisfying. It is a piece of cinematic art that I haven't experienced in many years. While not suitable for everyone, abstract science fiction fans will enjoy this film.

There are a lot of great movies on Netflix. If you have any suggestions leave them in the comments. In the meantime, watch more movies.

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