New to Netflix this week come looks at old age, both life-affirming and not so much. First up is “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” the Academy Award-nominated (hey, that old-age makeup is better than most of its contemporaries) comedy from Johnny Knoxville. Mileage for the film will vary on how much enjoyment one gets out of seeing a fake old person doing inappropriate things. That comes to Netflix Saturday, but those not eager to see Knoxville get a fake penis stuck in an ice machine might do better to wait until Monday for “Lullaby,” about a family (Garrett Hedlund, Anne Archer, Jessica Brown-Findlay) reconnecting after their patriarch (Richard Jenkins) decides to take himself off of life support. Those looking for something slightly less heartwarming (but also less juvenile than “Bad Grandpa) could wait until Tuesday for “A Night in Old Mexico,” which gives the great Robert Duvall one of his better late-period showcases.
Tuesday’s biggest arrival is “Killing Them Softly,” the gangster film by Andrew Dominik of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “Chopper” fame. It’s more uneven than those earlier films, and it foregrounds its subtext when it should focus more on its story, but it features great supporting performances from Scoot McNairy, James Gandolfini and Ben Mendelsohn, a solid center in Brad Pitt and a number of terrific isolated sequences.
Tuesday’s new arrivals also includes 1966’s “This Property is Condemned,” a Depression-era drama about a man (Robert Redford) who comes to a poor Mississippi town to shut down the railroad, the town’s main source of income, only to fall in love with a local girl (Natalie Wood), much to the anger of the girl’s mother (Kate Reid) and the townspeople. It’s an early lead role for Robert Redford, as well as an early film from director Sydney Pollack and screenwriter/future directing giant Francis Ford Coppola, and is adapted from a Tennessee Williams one-act play, no less.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
“Bad Grandpa” does have a handful of hilarious set pieces. A corpse falling out of a casket is always good for a big laugh, and when Irving stages his own private farting contest in the back booth of a diner, the explosive climax is as shocking to us as it is to the patrons (the rare moment in the movie when that’s true). One of the high points has Irving going into a bar that’s been turned, for an evening, into an impromptu female strip joint (yes, he gets up and performs). And at the end, when the grandson, in drag, enters a little-girl beauty contest, the movie far outdoes the crowning moment of “Little Miss Sunshine.” Read more.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Nikola Grozdanovic, The Playlist
Richard Jenkins, on the opposite end of the experience spectrum, proves how criminally underused he is as he acts circles around an entire room of talent while never getting out of bed. He’s a character actor who can blend into all sorts of situations seamlessly in the background, but roles like this are examples of why he needs to be in the foreground more often. Read more.
David Ehrlich, The A.V. Club
Shot with little grace but lots of gusto, “A Night In Old Mexico” works best when it fixes its focus squarely on Red, the kind of man who can’t make the slightest move without a squelch of leather. Duvall manages to embody the character with real integrity, while still allowing the withered rancher to feel out of time. Even when Red is forced to confront how his stubborn, old-world values have cost him his family, Duvall exhibits the happiness of an actor raging against the dying of the light. Re-teaming Duvall with “Lonesome Dove” screenwriter Bill Wittliff, the film moves at the relaxed gait of its protagonist, cohering into a wistful comedy of errors inflected with a streak of fantasy. At times, the material is closer in spirit to “Last Vegas” than it is to a sober death rattle like “The Shootist.” Read more.