Stanley Kubrick, Ryan Gosling and Ferris Bueller (oh my!)
The dog days of summer are upon us, where it’s impossible to do much besides crank the air condition and plop down on the couch.
This is actually an okay option, especially considering how great the lineup of new movies is on Netflix. While there aren’t any truly terrific Netflix original movies this month (although Jamie Foxx’s vampire-hunting buddy comedy “Day Shift” almost made the list), there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to new library titles on the streaming service.
In August there’s something for everyone on Netflix, from Keanu Reeves as a paranormal detective (“Constantine”) to a controversial Tom Cruise classic (“Eyes Wide Shut”) to a 1980s favorite that only gets better with age (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”). Plus so much!
If you’ve watched the new Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” you undoubtedly took notice of Jenna Coleman’s Johanna Constantine, a paranormal investigator. That character is based on John Constantine, a character created by Alan Moore in the “Swamp Thing” comic book series and dramatized, on the big screen, by Keanu Reeves. (More recently he has been portrayed by Matt Ryan on “Constantine” and the various TV shows in the so-called “Arrowverse.”) While the movie strayed far from Constantine’s comic book origins, as Reeves is not British and his portrayal neglects much of the character’s history, it’s still a fun romp, a big budget detective movie mixed with an “Exorcist”-like supernatural thriller, set in a grungy modern-day Los Angeles that secretly courses with Satanic energy. Plus, Tilda Swinton shows up as an androgynous angel, Bush front man Gavin Rossdale appears as a swinging demon and Peter Stormare has a third act cameo as the literal devil, dressed in a white disco suit and dripping black ooze. They should have made ten more of these movies.
Stanley Kubrick’s final film is, like many of his other features, elliptical, strange, provocative and totally brilliant. Loosely based on “Traumnovelle,” a novella from 1926 written by Austrian author Arthur Schnitzler, “Eyes Wide Shut” stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, then a real-life couple, as a wealthy Manhattan doctor and his disenchanted wife. After Kidman’s character confesses a secret sexual desire, Cruise’s character embarks on a nocturnal odyssey through New York City’s sexual underground, eventually winding up at a secret sex club where everyone wears old timey masks and a password must be uttered to gain admission. One of the most infamous productions of all time (it still holds the record for the longest continuous film shoot at 400 days), “Eyes Wide Shut” meandered to the big screen, swapping actors in and out and finding its rhythm as it went along. Less psychosexual thriller than dreamy tone poem, it features one of Cruise’s greatest performances, an orgy sequence that is still pretty eye popping and maybe the greatest final line of any movie. Initially somewhat undervalued, it has rightfully taken its place as one of Kubrick’s finest achievements.
“The Breakfast Club” might be John Hughes’ masterpiece, but “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is undeniably his most fun movie. Supposedly written over a handful of days before a looming writers’ strike, the initial cut was nearly three hours long, whittled down to a svelte 103-minutes by legendary “Star Wars” and “Blow Out” editor Paul Hirsch. As it stands, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a locomotive of narrative efficiency, a glittery 1980s wish-fulfillment-fantasy made powerful and dimensional by its melancholy underpinnings and by the beautiful performances from a trio of young actors (Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck). It should also be noted that cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, a frequent Jonathan Demme collaborator, gave the movie a great, frequently imitated look. While the movie was a smash and has become a perennial favorite, it still feels underappreciated. And really, is there ever a bad time to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?”
“Men in Black” clearly lifted some of its DNA directly from Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” – the group of secret, otherworldly problem-solvers who exist so that the rest of humanity can remain blissfully unaware, and the sardonic tone that applies matter-of-fact commentary to truly outrageous scenarios. But it also replicated “Ghostbusters” in another key respect – no matter how many sequels or spin-offs they attempted, of either film, ultimately nothing could reach the feeling (that warm-hearted joy) of the original. It makes the original in both franchises even more miraculous. Just think of the simple pleasures of “Men in Black,” the genius pairing of Will Smith’s smart-ass beat cop and Tommy Lee Jones’ weary intergalactic enforcer, the relatively lo-fi charm of Rick Baker’s animatronic creatures and make-up effects (mixed with some cutting edge ILM animation), the streamlined simplicity of the storytelling (tiny planet, got it) and the singularly brilliant comedic performance of Vincent D’Onofrio as a fearsome alien creature crammed into the body of a country rube. And all in a compact 98 minutes! (Just think about the overcomplicated muddle of “Men in Black: International,” at an agonizing 115 minutes.) It’s hard to think of a movie whose extremely catchy premise begs for further installments but should have never gone past the original. Except, you know, “Ghostbusters.”
The best movie you’ve never seen. Originally envisioned as a television series, “The Nice Guys” was reworked from a contemporary procedural to a period buddy movie, set in the ragged Los Angeles of the late 1970s. (Even the “Hollywood” sign looks like crap.) Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe play very different detectives who reluctantly team up when a young girl (Margaret Qualley) goes missing. The zippy narrative travels through Hollywood’s booming porn industry, eventually uncovering a far-reaching conspiracy, one that is heightened by the country’s national moral decay. Brilliantly co-written and directed by Shane Black, whose resume reaches back to writing “Lethal Weapon” just out of college, “The Nice Guys” is the type of movie that gets better, funnier and more complex, every time you watch it. While Black and his collaborators had initially planned for this to be the start of a franchise (for adults, no less!), a terrible release date and anonymous title sunk those ambitions and the film wound up losing money and further alienating producer Joel Silver from his former partners at Warner Bros. In a just world, we’d have gotten more. As it stands, “The Nice Guys” is a standalone masterpiece.
Still the best modern 007 adventure. After establishing Daniel Craig’s Bond bona fides with “Casino Royale” (and taking something of a dip with the still underrated “Quantum of Solace”), the actor returned to the character for an elegant spy thriller that somehow felt genuinely fresh and perfectly of-a-piece. (The movie was released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the character.) After a jaw-dropping opening (and a classic Adele theme song/title sequence), “Skyfall” settles into its groove, with a story of revenge, trauma and how compromising your moral code is sometimes the only way to save the world. Breathlessly directed by Sam Mendes (who would return, less spectacularly, for “Spectre”), who stages action set pieces with an eye towards clear spatial relationships and geography, it is also arguably the most emotional James Bond movie ever, especially during its nifty, pared down third act. (Also Javier Bardem steals the show as an over-the-top villain.) Even last year’s terrific “No Time to Die” feels inspired by what “Skyfall” established. The character (and the franchise) just doesn’t get better than this.
Robert Zemeckis, one of American cinema’s premiere fantasists and an Oscar-winning filmmaker behind “Forrest Gump,” returned to live-action after a decade making motion-capture animated movies that pushed the limits of technology but failed to connect with audiences. And as his first he chose a drama about a junkie pilot (Denzel Washington) whose heroism during a crash puts extra scrutiny on his personal life. While this could have been a relatively small-scale affair, this being Zemeckis, the set piece of the plane crash is one of the most visceral sequences he’s ever put to film. The crash sequence is such an achievement, in fact, that it allows for some of the wonkier aspects of the movie (occasional tonal inconsistencies, alarmingly on-the-nose needle drops, an overlong runtime) to be overlooked completely. Plus, there’s plenty to love, especially John Goodman’s colorful supporting performance and some pretty good twists (the screenplay by John Gatins was nominated for an Oscar). “Flight” is an inessential entry in the filmmaker’s oeuvre but if you’ve never seen it and are a Zemeckis completist, you might as well board.
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Photograph by Irvin Rivera for TheWrap
The 7 Best New Movies on Netflix in August 2022 – TheWrap
Stanley Kubrick, Ryan Gosling and Ferris Bueller (oh my!)