This weekend and next week bring a handful of exciting new titles to Netflix, from a new film from a master director to one of the final films of an underrated actor. The latter is up first: the post-Katrina-set drama “Hours” features a strong performance from the late Paul Walker, whose relaxed, heartfelt delivery of the film’s monologues suggests a greater well of talent than most of the actor’s films gave him a chance to display. That comes to Netflix today, along with the Chelsea Handler stand-up film “Chelsea Handler: Uganda Be Kidding Me.” They’ll be followed tomorrow by director Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy” follow-up “Breathe In” and the rehab comedy-drama “Why Stop Now” from “Philadelphia” screenwriter Ron Nyswaner and co-director/co-writer Phil Dorling. The first features strong work from Guy Peace and Felicty Jones, while the latter stars Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo and Tracy Morgan.
The biggest upcoming title is Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur,” which hits Netflix Tuesday, October 14. It’s the second Polanski film in a row based on a play, but he’s working with a much stronger script here than in “Carnage,” and he gets the best performance of wife Emmanuelle Seigner’s career as an actress who slowly starts to exert more power over Mathieu Almaric’s director. Also on the way Tuesday is “Witching & Bitching,” a horror-comedy about two thieves who have a run-in with cannibalistic witches. Wednesday meanwhile, brings “Stay,” starring Taylor Schilling as a pregnant woman who learns that the expected father (Aidan Quinn) wants nothing to do with her, while Thursday features the Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain-starring spy thriller “The Debt.”
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Mike D’Angelo, The Dissolve
It remains semi-watchable nonetheless, which is a testament to the skill of its four lead actors, who valiantly struggle to remain truthful. Reportedly, Doremus and Ben York Jones (who co-wrote the script) let the cast improvise most of their dialogue, which explains why Sophie and Keith are constantly saying banal things like, “It’s so hard to actually do what you want to do” and, “It’s hard to know how to be truly free.” (Subtext: Life is hard.) Read more.
Criticwire Average: B-
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
Still, it’s a stunning showcase for Walker, particularly since it’s virtually a one-man show. Apart from the flashbacks with the always-underutilized Rodriguez and the appearance of medical staff or dangerous characters every few minutes, “Hours” is essentially an extended monologue featuring the actor talking to his newly born daughter about his life, her recently departed mother and his anguish over having lost one and potentially losing the other. Read more.
Nik Grozdanovic, The Playlist
The acting is as inspired as the screenplay allows, which just isn’t enough to add any kind of conviction to the events that transpire on screen. From the one and a half hour running time, there are perhaps two moments where something stirs in you and you feel compelled to pay absolute attention. Read more.
But Polanski isn’t a miracle worker. “Venus In Fur” works where the facile “Carnage” largely didn’t because the play itself is something of a delight—a straightforward but sharply comic twofer about roleplaying and control-based relationships (be they artistic, romantic, or otherwise). The casting, too, is impeccable. Read more.
David Ehrlich, The Dissolve
Where many of de la Iglesia’s films get bogged down in a single location and then become so motormouthed that they choke on their own tongues, Witching & Bitching is immaculately paced. Its absurdities are too well-tiered to numb viewers with nonsense. Read more.