Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sometimes it’s just too hot to go outside. The DC area can feel like the surface of the sun, and while Cinema Siren exists to get find movies worthy of sending film fans back into a big dark theatre near you, in August, there is something to be said for staying in and staying glued to the home screen, as big or small as it may be. This week Cinema Siren is starting something new, Netflix Nuggets, for just such an occasion. Most of my selections are available to watch instantly, and let’s face it, when there are thousands of movies to choose from online, how will you ever find the greats that will be worth every moment spent watching them? Lean back in your easy chair and let Cinema Siren guide you to a few treasures that are just a few clicks away…

As perhaps you’ve heard, those English folk can both write a good story, and act well on stage and screen. For my first Netflix Nuggets, I’ve selected 5 movies you may not have heard of, starring some great actors, featuring great writing, and spanning the spectrum from quirky to sweet to a bit twisted. There should be something for anyone who loves independent comedies, and even more substance for any Anglophiles out there.

Assassin in Love
We start with a movie that stars one of my favorite actors, Damien Lewis, who we can all look forward to seeing in the new “Homeland”, on Showtime this fall, and who rose to fame by playing the lead in Band of Brothers. Assassin in Love, originally called “The Baker”, is about a killer who tires of his career, becoming marked for permanent retirement. He hides out in a tiny gossipy English village posing as the new town baker, surrounding himself with a strange cast of characters, including a female veterinarian with whom he becomes involved. That quirky English slapstick is in evidence throughout the movie, and the ensemble cast is easy to get attached to, as they all wholeheartedly jump into playing such a diverse set of interesting and funny characters.

Death at a Funeral
This is not the god-awful American remake, this is the British original from 2007 that features Matthew MacFadyen who will soon be playing Athos in the remake of The Three Musketeers (in 3D!!). In Death he is Daniel, the straight man to the surrounding hilarity and hijinks at the ever more complicated trainwreck that is the wake for his father. Serenity and Dollhouse alum Alan Tudyk steals the show as the new fiance to Daniel’s cousin, who comes to impress, but accidentally takes hallucinogens before arriving. The events of the day rapidly devolve while Daniel tries to maintain some semblance of dignity. This movie has a surprising amount of heart, and is as funny as the American remake isn’t.

Two words: Clive. and Owen. In what more or less amounts to a romantic lead. It is clear the great script drew him to the role, which is about experimental open prison inmate Colin Briggs, who while there learns he has a talent for growing plants and flowers. He is mentored by gardening guru Georgina Woodhouse, played by Helen Mirren, who convinces him and his fellow gardener inmates to compete in a famous British Flower Show. I can’t remember if i’ve ever seen a movie good or bad that wasn’t made better by the presence of either of these actors. Here you get both in one sweet story based on real events.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Amy Adams is at her sassiest, which is saying something, and Frances McDormand is a luminous charm playing the genuine and rapidly changing Miss Pettigrew. WIth its wit and screwball comedy elements, It’s a bit Pygmalion, a bit Noises Off. Bright romantic sparks are ignited for both characters by pretty supporting players Lee Pace and Ciaran Hinds. The whole movie is like a little belgian chocolate mint. It’s the quality of what’s in it–the music, the costumes, the acting, the writing– that makes it so tasty.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising
By far the weirdest selection, this slightly older movie (1989) stars Richard E. Grant as British advertising executive Denis Bagley, who, in his obsessing over a new pimple cream slogan, grows a boil on his shoulder. When the boil grows eyes and a mouth and starts talking to him, he thinks he’s lost his mind. It’s a wild ride that just gets weirder and weirder as it goes on…This Monty Python-esque freak of a satire is laugh out loud funny, quite the lambast of the advertising industry, and many of the messages in the movie are equally relevant today.

These five movies will charm you, get you lost in story, or maybe freak you out, but all with a smile on your face. There are always great new movies with stadium seating a short drive away, but sometimes with a little guidance you can press a few keys or buttons and find a new favorite. If you’ve gone on vacation already this summer, your pet missed you. Now you can create the perfect balance of the heat of their fur as they sit with you, your blasting air conditioning, and the popcorn you make with actual butter.

Off you go! Jolly good show!