Friday, June 21, 2013

More New June Titles (2013)

A few more noteworthy titles that showed up on Instant this month:

Chasing Ice (2012)

A sobering, provocative documentary that follows nature photographer James Balog's on-camera quest to document how unnervingly fast the world's glaciers are melting and what this implies for the planet's future. Not simply an environmentalist polemic trumpeting the latest global-warming theories to mollify the already converted, Chasing Ice is an adventure story and travelogue about one man challenged by the elements, his own hardheaded determination, and the breakdown of his increasingly fragile body while seeking empirical evidence for what many of us already suspected but which until now had never been witnessed. The time-lapse images of enormous glaciers receding and shrinking into muddy splotches are horrifying and heartbreaking, but also beautiful and miraculous, especially once you've seen the struggle it took to achieve them. Balog's art and sacrifice may have worn him down physically—like one of his own compromised ice floes—but with any luck enough people will see his amazing work and be inspired to act. Or at the very least question their views. The evidence is here. All you have to do is look.

Upstream Color (2013)

Second feature film by Shane Carruth, the writer-director-editor-star of 2004's Primer, and apparently even more trippy than that acclaimed time-travel headscratcher was. I have yet to see this new one myself, but for viewers who don't mind exchanging sense and realism for strangely poetic sci-fi fantasy (just look at that plot description!), this one should hit all your non-narrative, art film buttons. Yes, Terrence Malick and Alain Resnais fans, that means you. (UPDATE: Full review posted.)

The Blue Raja, Mr. Furious, and The Shoveler = Awesome

Mystery Men (1999) - EXPIRED 12/31/13

Guilty pleasure alert. Or is it? For whatever reason, this superhero spoof—way ahead of its time, given the continuing run of Kick Ass- and Tick-like meta super adventures—took all sorts of flak when it was released. Sure, it's 10 minutes too long and gets away from itself in the final act, but for most of its running time it succeeds in its subversive, no-holds-barred takedown of superheroes and consumer culture. The cast is almost uniformly hilarious, with Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, and William H. Macy as a core group of distinctly non-superpowered misfits who really want to bring good to the world but are stymied by their own limitations at every turn—not to mention the city's one true superhero, Captain Amazing (played by an appropriately fatuous Greg Kinnear), who's a shallow, walking product placement not afraid to make both bad guys and aspiring good guys look inadequate. But when the good Captain is kidnapped by a truly bad Bad Guy (Geoffrey Rush), our nerdy heroes finally have a way to prove their worth by rescuing him. Or that's the plan, anyway. The ensuing superhero auditions to bolster their ranks and the wannabes' misguided attempts at rescue are as funny and pathetic as Stiller's Mr. Furious trying to tear off a car's hood ornament. I never read the original comic book the film was based on, so I had no expectations. But the characters and performances—including those of Janeane Garafolo, Paul Reubens, and Tom Waits—consistently make me laugh on repeated viewings. And if that's not enough, you can always stare at Claire Forlani, as the world's most beautiful waitress. Sad that the film's director, Kinka Usher, hasn't made a movie since. There have been far worse cinematic crimes littering more successful directors' resumes.

Planet of the Apes (1968) - EXPIRED 5/31/14

No doubt you need no introduction to these original dirty, stinking apes, but it's worth noting that this seminal science fiction film—so poorly remade by Tim Burton a few years back—has returned to Netflix. It was here a couple months ago, then it was gone, and now it's back. Who knows why, or how long it will stick around. But if you haven't seen it, were made curious by its recent appearance on Mad Men, or you simply have the urge to revisit one of the first of a great wave of thoughtful sci-fi from the 1960s and '70s, now's your chance. Tell 'em Chuck sent you.

Charlton Heston in fur undies and Roddy McDowell in a monkey mask--what else do you need?


Apocalypse Now (1979)
Arrested Development: Season 4
The Avengers (2012)
Chasing Ice (2012)
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)
Gergory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (2012)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Mystery Men (1999)
One From the Heart (1982)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Platoon (1986)
The Rainmaker (1997)
Tetro (2009)
Upstream Color (2013)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

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