Ramble No. 20: Six on Netflix

As well as watching Solo: A Star Wars Story a couple of times I got the opportunity to watch a few films from my watchlist on Netflix. Six to be precise. So here’s a quick run down of what I thought. There are a few minor spoilers below

The Outsider is a recent Netflix production starring Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049, Suicide Squad) as an initially jailed American soldier, Nick Lowell, in post-WWII Japan who does his Japanese cellmate a favour and subsequently ends up joining the Yakuza. Through a variety of jobs, he becomes much valued by the tight-knit gang although there is some distrust toward the gaijin. He doesn’t help himself by falling in love with the sister, played by Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2), of one of his ‘brothers’.

In-fighting among rival gangs of the Yakuza escalates to the point where Nick’s gang hit the mattresses. Key gang members are killed and Nick seeks revenge. The film goes along at fairly entertaining clip and seems to be building up to some kind of Kill Bill style bloody finale. Unfortunately the rather flat end leaves you wanting more and wondering why the writers didn’t think to provide a bit more spectacle. That said, Leto’s performance is unblinkingly intense.

Duck Butter is another 2018 release but an entirely different kettle of fish. In fact there’s no clear connective tissue between any of these films really apart from appealing to my eclectic taste. Duck Butter went on to my list because I wanted to see the enigmatic Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) in a serious role and the trailer intrigued me. Here it is:

I was expecting a kind of dark comedy centred on a couple of lesbians. It’s not really a comedy at all, but it is a lesbian love story (and not for the prudish). Two girls, one introvert (Shawkat) and one extrovert, played by Laia Costa (Victoria), agree to spend twenty-four hours in each other’s company and explore issues of trust and honesty to fast-track their fledgling relationship. As the film progresses it’s clear that while the sexual attraction is strong they’re maybe not as compatible as they first thought.

Duck Butter suffers a little from the same issue as The Outsider in that the end feels a bit unsatisfactory. Duck Butter leaves the two troubled lovers apart in same way as La La Land. Shawkat’s character gets to look after a stray dog as a reward and has perhaps learned something to help her in her next relationship, but it’s hardly a When Harry Met Sally ending. Costa’s character appears to have learned very little. And perhaps that’s ultimately the whole point. It’s a realistic portrayal of how some relationships just aren’t meant to be.

Game Over, Man! is the only film of these six that I watched with Siggy. She requested a light-hearted film to finish a heavy working week off with a smile (plus she likes Shaggy who has a cameo in the film). It’s another Netflix production released earlier this year.

Yes, completely different to the first two films. This one is a silly action comedy for people who don’t want to think too hard about anything – think Die Hard meets The Hangover and you’ve basically got the level. The premise is that three friends who work at a hotel have to fight a bunch of terrorists – their main motivation is to save the wealthy prince who is willing to fund their video gaming start-up.

There are moments that will make you laugh but there were also moments when I thought ‘Jeez this film is reductive/sexist/homophobic‘. Also to be honest I didn’t really connect with any of the three main dudes – they were a bit too frat-boy stereotypical for my liking. Still it’s over now, and I can move on.

The next film, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, is an eye-widening documentary about Jim Carey’s off- and on-set antics during the filming of the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, which if you haven’t seen it, is a brilliant film. The footage filmed at the time is amazing and is interspersed with frank interview footage of Carey sporting a huge bushy beard and extolling his new philosophy on life.

The film acts partly as a biopic for Jim Carey telling of his ambitions, his drive and ultimate dissatisfaction with his incredible success. Having just read a book about Charles Manson it was kind scary to see this iconic why-is-he-always-smiling? guy talk very abstractly about this reality and question social norms and human behaviours.

In the behind-the-scenes footage we see Carey seemingly possessed by the characters he is portraying. It looks like method-acting taken to the edge of schizophrenia, especially so when he was playing Andy Kaufman’s alter ego Tony Clifton. It’s a fascinating documentary about identity and the question ‘who am I?’ and it’s no wonder it has won an award or two.

Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe has been on my list for as long as I can remember. It was released in 2013 and is the story of a man accused of murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) who sprouts horns. Simples.

The film feels very much like it’s been influenced by Japanese anime but it’s actually based on a novel by Joe Hill who co-wrote the screenplay. It plays out like an adult fairytale reminding me somewhat of Kevin Smith’s Dogma, but on a more personal and less armageddon-related level, and of the Amazon series Preacher.

It’s atmospheric and edgy with some quite horrific moments. Radcliffe is very good as the put-upon murder suspect and as he realises the powers he has mysteriously acquired the film really takes off in a weird and wonderful, but also oddly grounded, way. I say grounded because Radcliffe’s character has to come to terms with the knowledge of what his family and friends really think about him and so the film is about exploring human nature and anxieties, as well as being a whodunnit.

Finally, staying on a supernatural theme, is A Ghost Story – the complete opposite of Game Over, Man! Not to be confused with the other recent film Ghost Stories, A Ghost Story is a very arty-farty film from 2017 shown in an odd square-with-curved-corners aspect ratio which plays out almost as a silent film (if it wasn’t for the incidental music) in large parts and starring Casey Affleck.

Affleck spends most of his time on screen playing the ghost of a dead man haunting his old house even after his widow moves out. He wears a white sheet over his head with two eyeholes cut out of it. No really. I watched it because Adam Buxton said it was worth seeing on his podcast. It’s his fault.

Buxton was right to be fair, but you have to have some patience. The pacing is along the same lines as Under The Skin. i.e. slow. Again this film reminded me of Japanese Anime in it’s haunting story and tells the story not only of Affleck’s character trying to come to terms with his loss (of life and love) but also the story of the house – who built it, the families that live there and what eventually happens to it in the future. You see the clever bit is that the ghost loops around in time to before he was born and after the house has been knocked down. It also has a pretty cool ending which is sudden and in keeping with the rest of the film.

So there’s a six-pack for you to choose from. I recommend them all for the various reasons stated. Take your pick, but make sure you’re in the right mood or you might end up like a cat stroked the wrong way and I wouldn’t want you blaming me…

(images from Pixabay.com)

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