i like to watch

V.20 No.27 | 7/7/2011
Ashes of Time Redux

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Ashes of Time Redux, Death Trance

Notable martial arts titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Kar Wai Wong

Cast: Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Li Bai, Carina Lau, Charlie Yeung

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai takes another crack at his mostly misunderstood new wave martial arts film from 1994. Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheung (no relation) star in this ultra-stylized story of a brokenhearted hit man who lives in a desert and uses skilled swordsmen to carry out his contract killings. Wong's editorial tinkering (five or so minutes worth of cuts) attempts to alter what was already a radical condensation of Louis Cha's classic wuxia novel The Eagle-Shooting Heroes. But it's still a gorgeous film and deserves a second look. HD Available.

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V.20 No.26 | 6/30/2011
The Overture

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): The Overture, Heading South

Notable international dramas from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Ittisoontorn Vichailak

Cast: Anuchit Sapanpong, Adul Dulyarat, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Narongrit Tosa-nga, Phoovarit Phumpuang, Arratee Tanmahapran, Sumeth Ong-ard, Chumphorn Thepphithak

This acclaimed Thai film is based on the life of Luang Paradit Pairoh, Thailand's most revered traditional musician. The elegant and sensitive narrative shifts back and forth in time, presenting our musical genius' life story and—by extension—the history of Thailand. The tale stretches from the Golden Era of King Rama V through to the ’30s when classical music was banned by the country's "modern" government. In Thai with English subtitles.

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V.20 No.25 | 6/23/2011
Mesrine: Killer Instinct

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1

Notable French thriller titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Jean-François Richet

Cast: Vincent Cassel, Cécile De France, Gérard Depardieu, Gilles Lellouche, Roy Dupuis, Elena Anaya, Florence Thomassin, Michel Duchaussoy, Myriam Boyer, Ludivine Sagnier

Devin D. O’Leary delves into the Netflix “Watch Instantly” feature and previews the two-part Gallic gangster saga Mesrine. Vincent Cassel (Irreversible, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Black Swan) stars as a middle-class French soldier who returns home to the neon glamor of '60s Paris and is soon mentored by a criminal kingpin (Frenchy superstar Gérard Depardieu). Jacques Mesrine was a real dude whose life in crime became the stuff of legend. Like Scarface but real. And with an accent. I mean, a French accent. In French with English subtitles. HD Available.
V.20 No.24 | 6/16/2011
How I Killed My Father

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): How I Killed My Father, Sin Nombre

Notable father-drama titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Anne Fontaine

Cast: Natacha Régnier, Hubert Koundé, Karole Rocher, Amira Casar, Michel Bouquet, Charles Berling, Stephane Guillon

In this oh-so-French psychodrama, a successful, middle-aged gerontologist in the wealthy suburb of Versailles realizes that his happy life is a carefully constructed facade when his long lost father arrives, seemingly out of nowhere. Daddy apparently abandoned his wife and two young boys decades ago and ran off to Africa to become a rural physician. Charming, detatched and honest to a fault, dad's glad to point out the flaws in his son's chosen lifestyle (including a mistress and a clientele of vain rich folk). Director Anne Fontaine (Dry Cleaning) pulls some tricky slight-of-hand, making the whole thing darker and more mysterious than the average family drama. In French with English subtitles.

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V.20 No.23 | 6/9/2011
Before Sunset

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Before Sunset, P.S.

Notable high-def romantic titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Richard Linklater

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Albert Delpy, Rodolphe Pauly, Louise Lemoine Torres, Marianne Plasteig, Diabolo, Marie Pillet

Remember the 1995 Gen X romance Before Sunrise, which hooked up Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for an all-night chat-a-thon on the train from Budapest to Vienna? Well, it's nine years later, and our boy Ethan is on the French leg of his book tour. Who should he run into but the lovely Ms. Delpy? Shot in real time, this minimalist film manages to build an intimate story from just dialogue. HD available.

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Jack Goes Boating

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Jack Goes Boating, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Notable Philip Seymour Hoffman titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Ortiz, Richard Petrocelli, Thomas McCarthy, Amy Ryan, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lola Glaudini, Rafael Osorio, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Mason Pettit

Philip Seymour Hoffman directs and stars in this downbeat romantic dramedy about two working-class New York couples. Hoffman is a lonely limo driver set up on a date with a funeral home worker (Amy Ryan) by his best friends. As usual for these slice-of-life indie character dramas, everybody is unhappy, uncomfortable and awkward around one another. But the writing is sensitive and the acting is solid.

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V.20 No.21 | 5/26/2011

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Colin, Survival of the Dead

Notable low-budget zombie titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Marc Price

Cast: Alastair Kirton, Daisy Aitkens, Kate Alderman, Leanne Pammen, Tat Whalley, Kerry Owen, Leigh Crocombe, Justin Mitchell-Davey, Dan Weekes, Dominic Burgess

Ever wonder, What's the story of that reanimated corpse wandering around in the background of the zombie movie? Not only is this British horror film shot from the refreshingly clever viewpoint of a recently created zombie, it was made for a mere $75. Writer-producer-director-editor Marc Price makes the most of his nonexistent budget, crafting a serious and sympathetic drama about memory, family, the loss of identity and the eating of other people's intestines.

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V.20 No.12 |

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains


Directed by Lou Adler

Cast: Peter Donat, Diane Lane, Marin Kanter, Laura Dern, Christine Lahti, Janet Wright, Mia Bendixsen, Stuart Ferguson, Ray Winstone, Paul Simonon

Some people call this the best punk movie nobody's seen. With its release on Netflix InstaWatch, I'm sure that's becoming less true. The flick was made in the early '80s but wasn't released on DVD for 26 years.

When it first came out, The Fabulous Stains never saw its way to many theaters; early test screenings showed that people didn't quite know what to make of it.

The flick kind of doesn't know what to make of itself. The pacing is weird and the themes obscured. Maybe that's because it was directed by a music biz type but written by Nancy Dowd, (who, it's rumored, disliked the final version of the movie so much she put it out under the pseudonym Rob Morton).

The basic plot is this: Corinne Burns' (Diane Lane) mother has died. She takes her sister (Marin Kanter) and cousin (Laura Dern) and flees their sad, industrial hometown. They're The Stains. They've practiced three times. They can't play their instruments, but somehow, they're given a chance to join a tour with a washed up-metal/prog act and The Looters, a fake up-and-coming punk band.

The Looters' lineup is enough reason to catch the movie: Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones, Clash bassist Paul Simonon and Tubes frontman Fee Waybill. Also making a cameo: Black Randy.

So The Stains take the stage at a club for the first time, and the band's sound would be OK at the worst high school talent show ever. There's no drummer.

Third Degree Burns (Corinne's new stage name) slowly reveals her new self. From under a hat, a skunk pattern dyed into her hair. From behind a trenchcoat, no pants (now we know where Lady Gaga got the idea), and a see-through old-lady blouse with no bra.

The show goes badly. People hate her. Burns' bandmates leave the stage, shocked by her outfit and the audience response. But she just turns up the wry observation and presence, talking shit about a woman in the crowd who looks like she came to the show hoping one of the dude band assholes would notice her.

The performance generates buzz, and The Stains become the big deal on the tour, overtaking their male counterparts. Burns rises to stardom over a month due to a ton of media attention. All of her fans begin emulating the look and the mantra: "We're The Stains, and we don't put out!" Burns explains in an interview that this is about "not getting screwed."

The Looters' singer hates Burns. Predictably he falls in love with her, softens her toward him, and then screws her over. He takes the stage to open for The Stains, and the entire audience is women with skunk hair and red blouses. The Looters try to play, but the crowd is impatient and calls for The Stains throughout the set. He gets angry, and makes a speech about how Burns is just taking their money. The fickle audience turns on The Stains, and a male newscaster is the first in line to critique Burns harshly, saying he knew all along that she was a phony.

So, in some ways, the film is about how media build up young women, fascinated by their sexuality, and then tear them back down.

But it's also about a teen who manipulates the media and her circumstances to her advantage. Remember: In the beginning of the movie, nothing is working out for Burns. She can't get a job, and she's trying to figure out how to take care of her sister.

Plus, the flick is an interesting commentary on rock and roll. The Stains never learn how to play their instruments. They never get a drummer. They're only show, message and fashion.

Despite a lot of awkwardness (that I'm willing to attribute to the direction) there are moments of profundity that come from the script.

In one particularly memorable scene, Burns' aunt is being interviewed by a reporter. She hasn't heard from her daughter or nieces for a month. She says that she's truly sorry for berating them all the time, for not believing in them and for breaking down their confidence. That's how her mother trained her, she says.

Really great monologues and dialogue exchanges show a variety of pressures and people bearing down on the situation and tell the tale of how a desperate youth can capture the public eye.

V.20 No.2 | 1/13/2011
“This will stop anything.”“From what?”“Living.”

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): 11 Harrowhouse

Notable titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Aram Avakian

Cast: Charles Grodin, Candice Bergen, James Mason, Trevor Howard, John Gielgud, Helen Cherry, Peter Vaughan, Clive Morton, Leon Greene

Set the time machine for 1974 and make like a jewel thief in Aram Avakian’s 11 Harrowhouse. Charles Grodin plays Howard Chesser, a likable everyman who, along with his thrill-seeking girlfriend Maren (Candice Bergen), conspires to pull off the largest diamond heist in history. The story is silly but the pacing is fast, so the whole thing goes down like a box of Junior Mints. One of the things that makes it work is Grodin’s wisecracking narration popping up here and there throughout the film. His wry observations, while never gut-busting, are amusing, comfortable and seemingly ad-libbed, like a distant cousin of MST 3000. The voice-overs fall just short of distracting at times, but also take the edge off some overly long car chases and whatnot. Our all-star cast includes James Mason, John Gielgud and Trevor Howard.

V.20 No.1 | 1/6/2011

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): She

Or maybe I don’t


Directed by Avi Nesher

Cast: Sandahl Bergman, David Goss, Quin Kessler, Harrison Muller Jr., Elena Wiedermann, Gordon Mitchell, Laurie Sherman, Andrew McLeay

Is this a recommendation or a warning? Only you can decide.

The unlikable protagonists, Tom and Dick, are wandering around a post-apocalyptic bizarro world where each town is a separate movie cliché. They’re looking for their kidnapped sister, Hari. So that’s Tom, Dick and Hari. They don’t say much during the movie, though Dick is kind of rape-y.

The brothers are kidnapped themselves by a worshipper of the goddess She. Tom is shoved into a series of wooden spikes lined up as a wooden-spike gauntlet in a scene of the worst acting, camerawork and blood effects I have ever seen. He’s left for dead.

Goddess She embarks on some kind of test in an area full of packing crates. The props master clearly told some flunky to spray tough-looking graffiti on all of the crates, so they say “New York” and “Danger” and “Don’t Touch.” If you decide to watch this flick, pay attention to the graffiti throughout. It’s a highlight.

With her big knives tucked sexily into her revealing white shift (because when the society goes matriarchal, women are even MORE sexy and wear even LESS clothing despite the necessities of battle), She defeats a bunch of giant masked dudes who jump out of the packing crates. A mechanical Frankenstein is her last foe.

Tom survives the spikes somehow and kidnaps the goddess in the next scene by picking her up with his hands. That was easy! Then he puts her on a horse and rides away, keeping her hostage with one arm while commanding the horse with the other.

They end up in a leper town, and the lepers have apparently seen the Star Wars trash compactor scene, because they throw Tom, Dick and She into the exact same scenario. She’s warrior women, all wearing tighty whiteys, rescue them. (The actresses in this cinematic masterpiece clearly do 120 minutes of step aerobics each day.)

The goddess doesn’t allow her soldiers to kill Tom and Dick—in spite of the kidnapping and rape innuendo—and instead chooses to follow them through dangerous situations while they look for their sister. Never mind the entire village of worshipers waiting to say “She, She, She, She, She, She, She” for waaaaay too long back home.

They meet up with vampires in Grecian garb, a communist god who controls things with his glowing green eyes, and a man in a ballerina costume who works for an old-man scientist wearing lipstick.

There’s a moment where one of the commie god’s followers kills him to find out if he’s mortal, and then screams about how the god lied to them. I was totally hooked. Sometimes even bad imaginations produce good moments if you get in deep enough.

She stars Sandahl Bergman as the goddess, though it seems like her IMDb bio is trying really hard to forget that.

In sum: Wait, what?

V.19 No.48 | 12/2/2010

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Breathless, A Woman Is a Woman

Notable Jean-Luc Godard titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Jean-Pierre Melville, Henri-Jacques Huet, Van Doude, Claude Mansard, Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Balducci, Roger Hanin

Jean-Luc Godard shook the film world with this New Wave masterpiece from 1959. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays an existential hood involved in a carefree "along for the ride" relationship with sexy Jean Seberg. Forget about the Richard Gere remake and dig on the icy cool original. In French with English subtitles.

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V.19 No.46 | 11/18/2010
The Girl on the Bridge (La Fille Sure Le Pont)

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): The Girl on the Bridge, The Widow of Saint-Pierre

Notable Patrice Leconte titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Patrice Leconte

Cast: Vanessa Paradis, Daniel Auteuil, Frederic Pfluger, Demetre Georgalas, Catherine Lascault, Isabelle Petit-Jacques, Mireille Mosse, Didier Lemoine, Bertie Cortez, Nicola Donato

One chilly Parisian night, a young girl (Frenchy pop star Vanessa Paradis) contemplates suicide on a dark bridge. Out of the night comes a stranger (Daniel Auteuil) who offers her a second chance. He is a once great, now-faded circus performer, a knife-thrower in need of a partner. Together these two lost souls form a deep, telepathic bond. This hypnotic modern fairy tale comes from director Patrice Leconte (Ridicule, Monsieur Hire). Bring a date!

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Quills, Pollock

Notable titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Philip Kaufman

Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Moyer, Pauline McLynn

Geoffrey Rush gives his usual bravura performance as the infamous Marquis de Sade. Confined to a madhouse in his later years, he uses a beautiful peasant girl (Kate Winslet) to smuggle out his scandalous writings. At first gleeful and naughty, the film eventually adapts a glum tone to drive home its anti-censorship message. Feel free to ignore that stuff and concentrate on the naughtiness.

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V.19 No.44 | 11/4/2010

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Special Day of the Dead edition

Four notable undead titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Inigo Garces, Fernando Tielve, Irene Visedo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Junio Valverde, Berta Ojea, Adrian Lamana

Set during the Spanish Civil War, this atmospheric ghost story finds a young boy sent to an isolated orphanage where he must deal with hunger, school bullies, the specter of war and the understandably upset ghost of a murdered orphan. Director Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Mimic) ladles on the old-fashioned chills, creating a top-notch horror flick along the lines of The Sixth Sense and The Others. In Spanish with English subtitles.

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V.19 No.42 | 10/21/2010
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

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I Like to Watch (Instantly): The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Lost in La Mancha

Notable Terry Gilliam titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world


Directed by Terry Gilliam

Cast: Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Heath Ledger, Andrew Garfield, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Richard Riddell

Former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) contributes his most imaginative fantasy to date. The trippy morality play concerns the immortal operator (Christopher Plummer) of a magical traveling circus who engages in a contest of wills against the Devil himself (Tom Waits) in order to save his young daughter (Lily Cole) from damnation. The film is most famous, of course, as the final on-screen effort of Heath Ledger, whose role is completed with the help of several other high-profile stars (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell).

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