This week we’re disappointed in Wolf of Wall Street (and The Wolverine), and find some gems streaming on Netflix.
Why limit film reviews to just one a week? And why use a bunch of dang words? Can’t we give you the goods in one or two paragraphs? Now, with our powers combined (that’s Susan Howson and Ross Catrow), you can hear about a film currently in theaters, some Netflix streamers, and even an occasional DVD. More bang for your buck! And you don’t even have to provide any bucks!
— ∮∮∮ —
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Hey kids, have you ever wondered what would happen if you and all your pals had all the money you could ever want? What if it came at the expense of a bunch of other people? Do you think it would prevent you from treating yourself to yachts, hookers, cocaine, and basically degrading everyone around you in every fashion you possibly can?
Turns out, we are talking about Wall Street, and the valuable lesson we should all learn from shady tycoon Jordan Belfort (played by Leo DiCaprio) is that we should all just go ahead and do whatever we want. As long as we have money, we won’t be punished too severely. Oh, and also we should learn a lesson about drinking too much soda before going into a three hour long Scorsese movie. The editing tends toward endless repetition of the same BS over and over ad nauseam. If you’re going to be insulting and offensive towards humankind, at least try not to be boring about it. —S
- Why you should see this movie: You need some desensitization therapy regarding drugs and/or naked chicks.
- Why you shouldn’t: There’s every reason to skip it: its effed up Boys Club way of glorifying limitless greed, its uneven narrative methods, and its weak, weak humor. But its worst sin is that The Wolf of Wall Street does nothing original or with heart.
- Bechdel Test: Please.
The Wolverine (2013)
If you like the X-Men franchise, then you’ll looooove skipping this one. I know it seems like a good idea—all Wolverine all the time. Hugh Jackman IS the hottest mutant around, that is, when he’s not off grapevining on Broadway. But this one pairs some blah performances with only the barest hint of a plot, throwing love interests together in a way that quickens no one’s pulse. Oh, and there’s some sort of villain we’re supposed to be afraid of, but she looks just terrifying tottering around in extremely high heels and having no motivation for anything.
It’s a travesty when a really good franchise’s offshoots go bad, but I’d skipped X-Men Origins: Wolverine because of accounts of its unwatchability. For some reason, logic dictated to me that an identically-named sequel might be just a remake in order to regain some favor with the fans. Nope, it’s just another terrible Wolverine side story with nothing behind it except a lot of dudes in suits who want your money. —S
- Why you should see this movie: Bone claws.
- Why you shouldn’t: It’s missing some filmic elements that you might find appealing, such as plot, character development, interesting fight scenes, and tension.
- Bechdel Test: Fail. There are two “sisters” who briefly speak to each other, but it’s about ol’ grapevining Hugh or their grandfather or something.
Our Idiot Brother (2011)
Miranda, Natalie, and Liz all have the same problem—Paul Rudd is their adorable brother! He’s overly trusting and sweet, and it lands him in some trouble with the law. So now he’s bothering their lives with his happy-go-luckiness, and though they want to punch him a lot at first, his blunders help them better themselves. At one point they even appreciate that!
Elizabeth Banks is predictably good as the posh, ambitious Miranda and Zooey Deschanel didn’t irk me too much as the insecure lesbian Nat. And, of course, Paul Rudd can do no wrong. Doesn’t mean that this latest quirk-fest is entirely worth sitting through. And if you do, you’re probably going to forget it existed within a couple of days. Unless you are really into faraway paintings of Zooey’s sideboob. —S
- Why you should see this movie: Everyone in it is a fine actor, and there are lots of really funny parts. Plus, if you have a multiple-sisters-and-one-brother dynamic in your family, there are some truths going on here.
- Why you shouldn’t: You’ve worked hard all week, and you want to watch a film that you’ll truly take to heart.
- Bechdel Test: It passes, but it was slipperier than you’d think. They mostly talk about the men in their lives, a list that includes their brother.
My Summer of Love (2004)
The Guardian has this list of 1,000 films to watch before you die. When I need something real to watch,1 I open up this list on Letterboxd, filter it by what’s streaming on Netflix (currently 128 movies), and pick something at random. And that’s why Netflix now thinks I’m super interested in foreign teen lesbian coming-of-age films.
My Summer of Love captures what happens when two young women, drunk on that special kind of golden laziness found only on summer break (and also drunk on alcohol), have a romantic fling despite strong cultural/familial pressure to do otherwise.
The film features a couple of solid performances–some by Emily Blunt but most by Natalie Press, especially as it becomes clear that she has way more skin in the game. There’s believable family drama all the way around, and it’s set in an interesting English town where class issues are obviously a thing. It reminded me a lot of 2001’s Lost and Delirious, but with, like, more meat and less weird teen awkwardness. —R
- Why you should see this movie: The filmmaker made a movie about two young women exploring a romantic relationship together and completely avoided making it a titillating sex piece.
- Why you shouldn’t: My Summer of Love has some things to say about religion, specifically charismatic Christians. If you’re sensitive to that, you may want to skip.
- Bechdel Test: Yes! There are men in this film and while the two main characters talk about them, they also have a trillion conversations about other things. You know, as human females do.
Jackie Brown (1997)
In Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino directs a classic caper film starring (almost) all currently known famous people: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert De Niro. Say what!?
JB, Tarantino’s next film in the director’s chair after 1994’s Pulp Fiction, is a lot better than I thought it was when it came out in 1997. Following Pulp Fiction, he’d written Natural Born Killers and From Dusk till Dawn—films with substantially more violence and blood than Jackie Brown. I think, at the time, I was just underwhelmed (and young / stupid).
But guys, Jackie Brown is great! A movie chocked full with amazing actors directed by a genius director simply could not be otherwise! —R
- Why you should see this movie: It’s a fantastic movie directed by a fantastically talented man that’s streaming on Netflix.2 There’s literally no reason not to watch it tonight.
- Why you shouldn’t: Your power’s out.
- Bechdel Test: No. The two female characters (played by Pam Grier and Bridget Fonda) don’t have a ton of screen time together, and most of it is spent talking about Samuel L. Jackson.
— ∮∮∮ —