Lita On Film

Archive for the ‘Netflix Recommendations’ Category

Trivial Top Ten

In Film News, Film Reviews, Netflix Recommendations on December 27, 2011 at 12:05 am

As the year draws to a close, I feel the annual urge to post my own Trivial Top Ten–a list not exhaustive by any means, but more a private crib sheet of my personal favorites from the past 12 months.

My perpetual caveat: there are SO MANY films I haven’t yet seen, many of which would probably end up on a more professional, exhaustive list, so don’t hold that against me.  These are just the ten films I enjoyed the most/found the most interesting over the past year.  Notes as to how you can see each of them are included, as are links to my own reviews of each title, as applicable.  Enjoy!  🙂

  1. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE – Read my review here!  See the official site for screening locations.
  2. WEEKEND – Read my review here!  Now available on NETFLIX streaming!
  3. SHE MONKEYS – Read my review here!  See the official site here…so far, no distribution in the USA, but keep your fingers crossed.  Whet your appetite with the trailer (here)!
  4. SHAME – Read my review here!  Visit the official site here to find where it’s playing near you!  Beware, its NC-17 rating has made it difficult to find outside of major cities and art houses.  You may have to make a pilgrimage for this one, but it’s worth it, I promise.
  5. INSIDIOUS – Read my review here!  Ok, I know it technically came out last year, but it made such an impression on me–and I was so late in finally seeing it–that I felt it was worth adding to this list.  Plus, genuinely good horror films are so few and far between these days that one practically has to reach back a year or two to be able to recommend anything good.  Available on NETFLIX streaming!
  6. LAST NIGHT – Another Tribeca premiere that still made it to this list about 9 months later.  A truly excellent romantic drama starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as a couple who married too young and are struggling with the consequences.  Great acting, tight direction and a fast pace keep the tension crackling in this sexy ensemble drama.  Available on NETFLIX streaming!
  7. DRIVE – Ok, I got to this one late as well, but it was so worth it.  Check out Kevin Bowen’s review over on Screen Comment for a full rundown, and the official site for screening locations near you.
  8. BUCK – Read my review here!  Now available on NETFLIX streaming!
  9. ANGELS CREST – Read my review here!  See the official site for release dates and screening venues.
  10. TROLLHUNTER – Read my review here!  Now available on NETFLIX streaming!

What were your favorite (or least favorite) films of 2011?  What were some that should have been on my list?  Let me know!

Halloween recommendation: “Insidious”

In Film Reviews, Netflix Recommendations on October 30, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Horror fans rejoice: finally, a film about possession that will leave you with more than just abject disappointment.

James Wan, instigator of the infamous “Saw” series, sets his sights a little higher in “Insidious,” a film which very consciously harkens back to some of the great horror tropes of the 1970s and 80s: demonic children, haunted houses, and intimations of the Beyond (in this film it’s called “the Further”). Part “Poltergeist” and part “Exorcist,” what sets “Insidious” apart from not only the recent spate of vapid possession flicks (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Last Exorcism,” “The Rite”) but from horror film tradition at large is its concentration on a male child as the victim of possession, and a father as the agent of his salvation.

The film opens on Renai (Rose Byrne), an aspiring musician and young mother of three settling into a new house in a tony suburb. Her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) is a schoolteacher, and they lead a hectic but happy family life—though not for long, of course. Soon Renai is plagued by mysterious voices during her long days home alone with the baby, and objects start to fall off shelves of their own accord. Then, after a tumble off a ladder in the shadowy attic, Renai and Josh’s oldest son, Dalton, fails to wake up the next morning. He has fallen into a strange, undiagnosable coma.

As the couple searches for answers Renai’s encounters become more and more terrifying, until she finally convinces Josh that they have to leave the house. But unlike “The Amityville Horror” or “Poltergeist,” the problem in “Insidious” isn’t in the house, but in the child. Having exhausted medicine and religion as possible solutions, Renai turns to (you guessed it) an old woman who acts as a medium between this world and the next—I mean, the Further. Josh turns out to be the only one who can save his son, who has wandered into some sort of existential Purgatory and is being pursued by evil spirits. The ending is too entertaining to spoil, but suffice it to say that things are left tantalizingly unresolved.

Wan’s touch is deft, neither abrupt nor predictable; he incorporates the inherent campiness of the genre seamlessly into this effectively spooky film, knowing just when to ramp up and when to relieve tension. Byrne and Wilson are believable in their roles (though Byrne looks far too well-kempt for a mother of three) and Lin Shaye, as the medium, and Barbara Hershey as Josh’s mother bring a seriousness to their roles that keeps the narrative from tipping into the absurd.

For someone who dreamed up the torture-porn orgy that the “Saw” franchise has become, Wan’s visual effects in this film are surprisingly innovative, even restrained at times. At one point, autonomous flashbulbs signal the presence of unseen malevolent spirits, recalling the barrels that indicated the approaching shark in “Jaws.” The evil spirits themselves are, as usual, less scary when we finally see them than when they remain an intimation hovering just out of frame, but they’re perfectly serviceable. It’s a credit to Wan that the appearances of the ghouls themselves don’t make or break the rest of the film.

Recalling “The Shining,” “Insidious” also relies heavily on its soundscape to create an atmosphere of menace, something that Joseph Bishara’s score accomplishes with aplomb. His heavy use of strings recalls not just Kubrick’s favored composers (Georgi Ligeti above all) but even Bernard Hermann. It’s impossible not to think of “Psycho” when those violins are being sawed at.

Overall, Wan is to be commended for his effort to update the haunted house genre and for stepping outside the glut of degradation films (some admittedly of his own making) that enjoy inexplicable popularity these days. Far from feeling dated or overly nostalgic, “Insidious” is pleasantly reminiscent of many of the best horror films of the past 40 years, but remains firmly anchored in the 21st century. It’s a welcome addition to the canon and, hopefully, the first in a long line of non-“Saw” films for Wan and company.


“Insidious” is available on DVD from Netflix.


This Week’s Netflix Recommendations

In Netflix Recommendations on August 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

1.  Winter’s Bone

Director Debra Granik’s tour-de-force drama about a teenage girl in the desolate Ozarks is nothing less than mesmerizing (see my full review here!).  Star Jennifer Lawrence and her young co-stars do an excellent job of naturalistic acting, and the film’s atmosphere feels authentic to a fault.  John Hawkes is unrecognizable as Lawrence’s volatile uncle, who reluctantly agrees to help her track down her no-good father before the family loses its home.  A must see!  Currently available on Netflix streaming.

2. Tie me up!  Tie me down!

This very sexy early Almodovar film has it all: tension, drama, comedy, and lots of sex.  Did I mention it’s full of sex?  Antonio Banderas stars as an escaped mental patient who takes a former porn queen hostage in her home and tries to get her to fall in love with him.  While clearly not a paragon of feminist ideals, as with everything from Almodovar, it’s definitely worth seeing.  Currently available on Netflix streaming.

3.  Don Juan DeMarco

This rom-com is as fluffy as they come, almost–Johnny Depp stars as a young man convinced he isn’t just a Brooklyn drifter, but actually the world’s greatest lover, a Mexican Casanova trained in the arts of lovemaking, sword fighting, and general swashbuckling.  An aging Marlon Brando is assigned as Depp’s psychiatrist, and the two forge an unlikely connection that turns out to save both of them from the brink of despair.  With Faye Dunaway as Brando’s wife.  Delightful!  Currently available on Netflix streaming.

This Week’s Netflix Recommendations

In Netflix Recommendations on July 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

1.  “Dahmer”

Long before Jeremy Renner netted an Oscar nomination for his star turn in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” he took on the role of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, whose claim to fame was that he not only seduced and murdered his male victims but cut up, stored and ate them as well.  In this surprisingly restrained though undeniably disturbing film, Renner brings everything he’s got to the role.  Though “Dahmer” definitely has its share of shortcomings, they’re really due to its script more than anything else; Renner’s performance is admirable, and a must for anyone wanting to watch his evolution as an actor.  Available on Netflix streaming!


2.  “Let Me In”

Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) directed this remake of Thomas Alfredson’s seminal vampire film “Let The Right One In.”  That combination–I loved “Cloverfield”–is enough to put this film squarely at the top of my queue!  It’s only an added bonus that the two child stars are played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who was riveting in “The Road,” and Chloe Moretz, recently of “Kick-Ass” fame.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve got a good enough feeling about it to recommend it anyway.  Available on Netflix streaming.


3.  “Darkon”

For those of you not looking for vampires, dismemberment, or cannibalism, here’s a slightly more family-friendly flick for your queue.  This fabulous documentary explores the lives of several live action role-players (the activity is referred to as LARPing) who have created their own fantasy kingdom, complete with Tolkien-esque history, topography and political machinations.  The line between “real life” and their shared fantasy world slowly blurs as the film goes on, and the portrait the film paints of its subjects is nothing less than fascinating.  A must for anyone who enjoys the LOTR or Harry Potter films a little more than they really should.  Available on Netflix streaming.

What’s On Your Queue?

In Netflix Recommendations on June 13, 2011 at 10:53 am

This weeks’ Netflix recommendations:


A surprisingly taut little action thriller about a runaway train, full of dangerous chemicals of course, bearing down on an innocent town.  Denzel Washington stars.  Not to be confused with the recent remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” which also involved a train (hijacked, in this case) and also starred Denzel Washington.  Tony Scott directs, which becomes obvious after about 5 minutes.  Available on DVD only.

The Vanishing on 7th Street

Though I was ultimately disappointed by this existential ghost story by Brad Anderson (see my review here), it’s still worth a look.  Fun special effects and great performances by the child actors.  Available on streaming and disc.

Black Death

While this Middle Ages horror flick wasn’t quite what it purported to be (see my full grievances here), it was still fun and definitely will fit the bill for a satisfying night in.  Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne really get into it, even if the script leaves a bit to be desired.  Available on streaming and disc.

What’s at the top of your Netflix queue?  What should I be recommending this week?  Let me know in the comments!

This Week’s Netflix Recommendations

In Netflix Recommendations on June 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm

My new weekly feature!  For those of you who already have access to the wonder that is Netflix, check out these films newly available for your queue!  (If you don’t have Netflix, email me at <> and I can forward you a “one free month” coupon!)

Many of these films will have already been reviewed on this site, so browse, read, and watch to your heart’s content!  Happy viewing.

1. “Vision” by Margarethe Von Trotta, starring Barbara Sukowa.  Dark Ages nun bucks trends, changes history.  Beautifully photographed.  Reviewed here.  Available on streaming or disc.

2. “Kings of Pastry.”  Doc about the annual pastry chef competition in France – a whole new level from Top Chef!  Reviewed here.  Available on streaming or disc.

3. “The King’s Speech,” this year’s big Oscar winner.  Definitely worth a look!  Available on disc only.

Check back next week for more awesome Netflix goodness!!