Conflix Resolution – End of Watch

January 9, 2014 by  
Filed under CineBlog, Conflix Resolution

Conflix Resolution is our updated blog of selections of what to watch on Netflix Instant Streaming.

After covering a film festival and attacking dozens of films before the years end to make my top 10, Conflix Resolution finally returns after a not-so-brief hiatus. For my triumphant return, I wanted to bring forward a movie that many readers (though in my opinion, not nearly enough) have probably seen, the 2012 cop movie “End of Watch.”

The premise of “End of Watch” is pretty simple since there is little plot. It’s essentially a “day in the life” look at two LAPD officers who eventually happen to stumble across some things that put them in severe danger. While that might sound simplistic, it is anything but.

There are a few things that stand out about “End of Watch.” First and foremost is the combination of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña in the lead roles. I don’t mean to get hyperbolic, but these two have some of the best on screen chemistry I’ve seen in recent years. It feels like watching a couple of guys who have known each other for years. Guys who are best friends, and like brothers. A great decision in “End of Watch” is to feature a lot of scenes of Gyllenhaal and Pena doing “ride alongs” around the streets of LA. This allows their characters to get into in-depth conversation and best of all, crack wise. The two constantly rib each other, getting into topics like their love lives and race and evoking buddy cop comedy with some truly hilarious exchanges.

Another thing that stands out is just how raw the film is. The idea behind the film is that Gyllenhaal’s character is carrying around a handheld camera for a class project, which gives a “reason” to have the film to have the “found footage” quality that is seen more often in film today. What director David Ayer did that was smart was to augment the footage to some more conventional camera work to leave the film a little more open stylistically. What we have in this handheld footage is a certain visceral feeling that adds so much to the film. There’s graphic violence, disturbing imagery, and gunfights, which are all elevated by the intimacy of the camera work.

The first time I saw this film, I went in with little expectation and was pretty staggered when I left the theater. So much so that “End of Watch” was No. 7 on my Top 10 Films of 2012. It is an absolute clinic in tension. From the middle of the film on, there is a constant feeling that something really bad is about to happen. Hell, try watching some of the later scenes in the film without feeling the slightest bit of anxiety. With a post-theatrical life on home video release and Netflix instant, I really hope that “End of Watch” becomes the next cop classic.

Conflix Resolution – The Intouchables

October 10, 2013 by  
Filed under CineBlog, Conflix Resolution

Conflix Resolution is our updated blog of selections of what to watch on Netflix Instant Streaming.

For this week’s edition of Conflix Resolution, I’m selecting a foreign film. Foreign films seem to be a tough sell for a lot of people, most of which who don’t seem to want to be bothered with subtitles. It’s unfortunate, because foreign films are such an essential part of modern cinema. You’ll be seeing a fair amount popping up on this blog. Last year was a particularly good year for French films. So good, that two French films ended up making my year-end Top 10 list. At No. 5 was Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone” and at No. 8 was this weeks selection, “The Intouchables.”

When I first saw the trailer for “The Intouchables,” I thought that it looked awful. It looked like your typical emotionally manipulative, feel-goody, melodramatic Oscar-bait. But as it happens, the trailers steered me in the wrong direction, and I was completely wrong. The premise is pretty simple. It’s about a wealthy quadriplegic named Philippe (Francois Cluzet) who ends up hiring a ex-con named Driss (Omar Sy) as his caretaker. What was most surprising about the film is that rather than being forced and unnatural, “The Intouchables” was one of the more earnest movies I saw last year. It’s touching without being overly saccharine and to my surprise, a little more adult and R-rated than one might expect.

I think the best quality the film has to be the combination of Cluzet and Sy. Naturally, the biggest source of entertainment of the film comes from the mismatch of personalities. What makes the film excel is that Cluzet and Sy are absolutely perfect together. Throughout the film, their relationship is the source of both tension and hilarity. One of the best things about “The Intouchables” is how legitimately funny it is. As the film progresses and Philippe and Driss start to bond, the joking between them escalates into relentless ball busting and quips. Some scenes that stick out include those in which Philippe completely cracks up at Driss’ deriding of “cultured” activities. The film is also able to wring a lot of good-natured physical comedy out of Philippe’s condition. In addition, it has its share of more down-to-earth, emotional moments, all of which are absolutely nailed by its two leads. The film as a whole is well written, well acted, and hits virtually every beat (be it serious or comedic) it strives for.

The film is tailor-made for wide audiences and awards, which is why it was no surprise France selected the film over the darker toned and overall strong “Rust and Bone.” What was a surprise, however, was that “The Intouchables” didn’t even make the Academy’s short list of potential nominees. “The Intouchables” is already slated for an American remake, and I have no doubt that it will be a major crowd pleaser. With the Weinstein Company behind the remake, it may  chase awards that eluded them last year. American remakes aren’t always a bad thing, but I find it hard to imagine two actors finding the same amazing chemistry as Sy and Cluzet. Watching these characters and actors bond is something truly special, so don’t wait for the remake. See the original now.

Conflix Resolution – Undefeated

September 30, 2013 by  
Filed under CineBlog, Conflix Resolution

Conflix Resolution is our updated blog of selections of what to watch on Netflix Instant Streaming.

Welcome everyone to Conflix Resolution. This will be the only time I give any type of extended greeting, since I know all you’re waiting for is to get down to the actual recommendation. As a critic, people (naturally) constantly ask me about my opinion for certain movies. But what I’ve noticed more and more of these days is people coming to me asking what they should watch on Netflix. Netflix has become so omnipresent and is an absolutely amazing tool for finding new films. Back in the day, the selection on Netflix streaming was quite primitive and hardly anything was available. But times have changed, and Netflix is now home to a number of amazing movies, both old and new, that can provide you with a brilliant at-home movie experience. The idea behind this blog is to give you something handpicked by us at every week. Some of them will be broad and enjoyable by just about anyone. But some will be decidedly independent, dark, and may even have those dreaded subtitles. All we ask if that you give it a shot. Though we love our fair share of Hollywood films, there is so much more out there and this blog is designed to give you a peek at some films you might not of heard of (and of course, some classics that always deserve some revisiting). So let’s get started!

For my first entry into this blog, I wanted to choose something that had a somewhat broad appeal. Something that a vast majority could relate to. Something human, emotional, and real. Then the perfect film hit me. For the first entry of Conflix Resolution, my suggestion for this week is 2011’s “Undefeated.” For those of you who don’t know, “Undefeated” is a documentary about a high school football team in Memphis, Tennessee. Beyond that, it’s about head coach Bill Courtney, a volunteer coach who spends all of his free time devoted to a ragtag group of high school kids in an inner city, teaching them not only about football but how to be men. On a more surface level, it is about a teams struggle for excellence; to be good enough to do what no other team in the school’s history has done; to win a playoff game. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s fair. It wasn’t highly publicized and it only played in San Antonio for a few weeks. It did, however, win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes “Undefeated” such a successful, brilliant and effective piece of film. There’s the underdog story that everyone loves; a group of high schoolers who are the perennial joke of the community, constantly being walked all over by intrastate opponents just trying to win one playoff game. There are the struggles of being a product of a rough neighborhood and using football as the only way out of a rough upbringing and spending potentially years in the same place. But above all, this film is about Coach Courtney’s unwavering commitment and deep, soulful connection with these players and kids. He spares time away from his family. His players constantly disappoint him and let him down and he is still there, every practice, giving them everything he has…FOR FREE! nonetheless. In return, the players adore, respect, and admire him. Not without their challenges, of course.

Without giving too much away, make sure to keep a box of tissues near, as the most down to earth moments of this incredibly moving documentary pack a punch. The best way I can think to relate it is to call it a real-life version of the television show “Friday Night Lights.” There’s humor, defeat, despair, triumph. But above all there is hope, and there is pure love oozing from the personable Coach Courtney. Spend a few minutes with him and you’ll quickly develop an admiration for him and realize why his players adore and look up to him. He is a truly astonishing role model.

Make no mistake; the name of the film can potentially be misleading. This isn’t a film about a privileged team looking to go unscathed through a season. It’s a film about a team that is exclusively scathed, looking to not let their failures or shortcomings define them. It is about being defined by their effort and their character. It’s about more than winning or losing football games. It’s about revealing character in those who it might not be abundantly clear. It’s about becoming good-hearted, respectable men. And it’s damn good.

Recommended for fans of: Sports Films, Documentaries, Friday Night Lights, Real Life Dramas, Underdog Stories.

Original CineSnob grade: B+