The Film Fix – October

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By Jonathan Hickman

Streaming Selects

Netflix

What to Binge:

“Stranger Things” – Okay, we’ve all seen the first season, but it might be worth revisiting it in preparation for season 2 that premieres on October 27.  Audiences just can’t get enough throwback 1980s as Stephen King’s “It” became a massive hit in theaters.  I suspect that the continuance of “Stranger Things” will test internet connections nationwide as families settle in and watch each and every episode in one continuous block (well, maybe over two days).

Season 2 brings back the original cast and adds a few new faces like Sean Astin (of “The Goonies”) and Paul Reiser (from 1986’s “Aliens”).  While plot details are understandably hard to find, you can expect that an exploration of the upside down is likely to put a chill up your spine.

Watch Movie to Watch:

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” – While this new drama/comedy from director Noah Baumbach can also be seen in theaters, Netflix subscribers might just choose to stay at home to catch Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Ben Stiller, and Emma Thompson.  Those names are just the tip of the iceberg.  “Meyerowitz” has a very deep and talented ensemble.

The story looks pretty typical of Baumbach’s work (see his fantastic “The Squid and the Whale”  and 2012’s “Frances Ha” as superior examples).  An estranged family (played by Sandler, Hoffman, Marvel, Stiller, and Thompson) come together for a New York event celebrating the artistic work of the family patriarch (Hoffman). The trailer teases heady humor and hard-hitting pathos.  Frankly, of all the wonderful performers in the cast, I’m keen to see what Sandler does with a more serious role (“Punch-Drunk Love” anyone?).

What to Avoid:

“Smurfs: The Lost Village” – With a 38 percent rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and turning to pure animation for the  third theatrical version of the beloved television series, “The Lost Village” should be low on your list when selecting a film on the streaming giant.  And if animation is what you’re after, Netflix still has “The Iron Giant” available, which is always worth revisiting.

Hulu

What to Binge:

“Adventure Time: Complete Season 9” – An animated show with few equals, season 9 of “Adventure Time” comes to Hulu for your binging pleasure.  Now you can join Finn, his dog Jake, Princess Bubblegum, the Ice King and others for another trippy journey saving princesses and just being cool.

Watch Movie to Watch:

“Arrival” – Director Denis Villeneuve is serving up “Blade Runner 2049” this month in theaters, and most hard core science fiction fans point to “Arrival” as the film that gives them hope that he is the right man for the “Blade Runner” job.  Starring Amy Adams as a language expert called upon to help us talk with mysterious visiting aliens, “Arrival” is an exquisite piece of futuristic filmmaking.  Featuring thoughtful performances from Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner, I can’t think of a film on Hulu this month that would be more worthy of taking in.

Those of you who want to catch the early work of Eli Roth (who’s shooting a movie in Newnan this month) check out “Hostel.”  

What to Avoid:

“The Punisher (2004)” – Thomas Jane made a terrific Punisher, but the film is pretty weak overall.  Given your Punisher options these days, only completists would really want to waste time on this installment.  Of course, the 1989 version with Dolph Lundgren is often thought of as the worst one with the 2003 “Punisher: War Zone” being high on fanboy lists.  Frankly, as much as I like John Travolta in almost everything (he’s great as Robert Shapiro in “American Crime Story”), his turn as the villain opposite Jane just turned me off.

Amazon

What to Binge:

“Lore” – Based on Aaron Mahnke’s popular podcast, “Lore” is an anthology series from the executive producer of “The Walking Dead” and the executive producer of “The X-Files.”  We get 6 stories of the paranormal starting on the 13th of October.  The trailer teases a docudrama approach with a gritty supernatural look reminiscent of “The Conjuring.”  The tag line is that the scariest stories are true.

Watch Movie to Watch

“Pet Sematary” – While this isn’t the best Stephen King adaptation, I have fond memories of seeing this one back in 1989.  The story takes place in Maine, of course, and involves a mystery surrounding a pet cemetery thought to possess supernatural powers.  When a family loses their pet on a busy highway, they bury the animal in the title graveyard only to have the creature return from the grave thereafter.  But what might work for pets, might have scary implications for human beings.  Best memory is veteran actor Fred Gwynne cautioning the family by suggesting that “sometimes dead is betta.”

What to Avoid:

“Escape from L.A.” – The unnecessary sequel to one of my favorite films from the 1980s should not be your first choice this month.  Sure, if you are a “Escape from New York” superfan, there is some utility in seeing Kurt Russell reprise his Snake Plissken role. But for fans of director John Carpenter, during the month of October you’d be better off seeking out his classic (yes, it’s now a classic, guys) remake of “The Thing” and for camp value, check out his always entertaining “They Live.”

Streaming Platform to Try: Shudder

Having just made a horror feature entitled “DeadThirsty” with my wife in Newnan, we decided to subscribe to the streaming platform “Shudder.” Boy were we surprised.  While offerings are understandably horror focused, this curated selection of films includes your typical horror movie entries along with unique exclusives like the very good “Prevenge.”  October is the right month to subscribe to Shudder.

Arthouse Corner:

“DINA”

You won’t believe this one is a documentary, but it is.  A cinéma vérité style film, “Dina” focuses on eccentric suburbanites Dina Buno and Scott Levin in the weeks leading up to their marriage.  Incredibly well captured in a unique 4:3 aspect ratio, filmmakers Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles smartly let their subjects tell their own stories, which unfolds naturally and completely without pretense.

Theatrical Teasers:

:Blade Runner 2049”

“Blade Runner,” released in 1982 and directed by Ridley Scott, was initially a box office disappointment.  But over the years, and through many different iterations, it has become a heralded classic.  What version (theatrical, final cut, director’s cut, etc.) is your favorite?

Well now, you’ve got another film to throw into the mix.  “Blade Runner 2049” is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who last gave us the impressive “Arrival” just last year. This should reassure folks that the producers weren’t messing around when this project was finally mounted.  And not to knock Ridley Scott, but injecting a new director into the material is really a good idea.

So, what is “2049” about?  Apparently, speculation that Rick Deckard is a replicant has been dispelled because Harrison Ford is back having not succumbed to the short lifespan attached to replicants. But he’s without his love interest, the beautiful Rachael (Sean Young), from the first film.  A new blade runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), has taken up Deckard’s mantel, but it appears that his duties lead him to seek out Deckard and the mysteries associated with the replicants.

Trading heavily on the visionary effects that so marked the 1982 original as a landmark piece of filmmaking, “2049” looks very gritty and practical. The effects, no doubt the result of a lot of computer generations, do seem to have tangible weight.

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