October, October. Autumn is in full effect (despite the temperatures still staying in sweat-mode ’round these parts). Children get costumes (points for all those homemade Miley Cyrus wardrobes this year!). Adults buy candy (while secretly hoping the crowd is small and they can chomp away on it for the next six weeks). And I am reminded of the time that one family told me to “come back again tomorrow” because they were “out of stuff to give away” (I didn’t do it).
It also means a brand new crop of Netflix Pix is on our plates, and this month, we have some doozies. Among them is the already-talked-about most-recent Ricky Gervais venture, one of the best Christmas movies of all time (and yes, it’s a Christmas movie), some odd-looking copper flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and, of course, two of my five favorite actresses in all of movies, Mia Wasikowska and Michelle Williams. It’s like Christmas came two months early this year, friends. And rather than a new car, you get some pretty great instant-stremaing suggestions to warm you up as the weather eventually cools down.
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Anyway, behold the following five ideas you might want to consider when that space heater needs to be brought down from the attic and the beauty of the leaves’ color becomes not enough to justify the inconvenience freezing temperatures often offers. Because everybody needs to put down those stale Milk Duds every now and then, right? Right.
Onward and upward …
1. “Derek” — Welp, there isn’t much more to say, of course. But it has yet to be listed as an official Pick, so here we be. If you are still resistant toward Ricky Gervais’ latest television creation, you probably won’t find a better time than this month to finally hop on that now-crowded bandwagon. Why is that? Well, the cold weather. Shorter days. Less daylight. You’ll need reasons to perk up every now and then, and this series about a somewhat offbeat nursing home worker who will both break your heart and make you laugh should do the trick. Plus, hey — the whole series won’t take you more than three-and-a-half hours to trek through. At about 24 minutes a pop, these things fly by quicker than the transition between “nice weather” and “unlivable weather” throughout this part of the country. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. And most of all, you’ll be entertained. Kindness is magic, friends. Kindness is magic.
2. “Love Actually” — It’s a gosh-darn Christmas movie, gosh-darn-it, and there’s nothing you can say that will change my mind. The thing essentially brought the whole ensemble-cast, 400-overlapping-stories trick into the new millennium’s version of the rom-com world (how are you, “Valentine’s Day?”) and if you’ve been me for the past few years, it’s also been essential to revisit each December, its intersecting plots and happy/sad endings reigning supreme throughout all Christmastime traditions. Have a look …
3. “Meek’s Cutoff” — Reason No. 934 I am so incredibly thankful Mr. Michael Hunley began working here a handful of months ago: He introduced me to a tiny 2008 movie named “Wendy And Lucy,” from the somewhat unknown indie director Kelly Reichardt. Inspired by that film, I immediately opted for “Meek’s Cutoff,” the 2010 western starring Michelle Williams (who already made this a can’t-miss for me anyway) and directed by Reichardt, who uses the tremendous Oregon-Trail-scenery to perfection, opting for long spats of wordless dialogue instead of predictable utterances that would ultimately do nothing for the story she’s trying to tell, anyway. This is pretty great stuff. Alongside Sarah Polley and Sofia Coppola, Reichardt has now become one of my most beloved, go-to filmmakers of the modern day. It’s a distinct brand of storytelling, yes, with its slow-moving parts and mildly ambiguous twists and turns, but it’s also one that proves fascinating to digest. As I said last night, to classify these three as great female directors is a disservice; man, woman or alien, the trio of Polley, Coppola and Reichardt has me by the throat, at the mercy of whatever they do next. Set in the mid 1800s, “Meek’s Cutoff” tells the story of settlers venturing across the country, following their leader, Steven Meek, even though he kind of, sort of doesn’t really know where he’s going. Water becomes an issue. Paul Dano and his real-life girlfriend Zoe Kazan continue to look cute with one another. Michelle Williams is impossible to ignore. Hilarity never ensues. And boom: You have yourself a quick 1-hour-45-minute narrative that leaves you no room for bathroom breaks. “In its scope, pacing and detail, ‘Meek’s Cutoff’ subverts nearly every trope of conventional Hollywood westerns,” the great Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday wrote in 2011, “and, in the process, winds up being all the more pure and ambitious.” She gave it four stars. She wasn’t wrong.
4. “End Of Watch” — Hey, we all know that most months have at least one weak-link pick, and if there was one that sticks out for October 2013, it’d be this. Still, there’s much to value in this David Ayer thriller about two California cops who share a bond thicker than blood (even after it’s shed, though no spoilers). Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña have been hard to like in the past (“Crash” wasn’t anywhere near the movie the Academy thought it was and old Jake-y-poo often has a weird presence onscreen, his natural good looks getting in the way of these darker movies he seems to gravitate toward), but here their chemistry is palpable, bringing a new touch to the buddy-cop formula that is tried and true. The fact that it comes off as a confused Lars von Trier movie at times notwithstanding, “End Of Watch” turns up the drama and makes a believer out of anyone immediately dismissive of what at first seems like a predictable narrative. Anna Kendrick turns up for a role not unlike other roles she has taken on in the past, while the project’s real surprise comes in the form of America Ferrera, who seemingly very much wanted to run far, far away from her Ugly Betty past (only now coming up on the final few episodes of that series on DVD, the thought of that voice saying the f-word in this movie makes me cringe ever so slightly). The ending will disappoint you, but if you can last the first 80 minutes, there’s no way you won’t be entertained. Somewhat novel in approach, “End Of Watch” is worth your time, especially if you feel like you need something on while you cook dinner. And hey — what’s so wrong with having things on while you cook dinner? Precisely.
5. “The Kids Are All Right” — Oh, this is great. Annette Bening commands the screen. Julianne Moore plays the wild child perfectly. And Mark Ruffalo … well, isn’t he always just great? Better yet is the criminally underused Mia Wasikowska, one of the best young actresses around (her moments on “In Treatment” are moments of gold, friends. Moments of gold), who is about to head to college and has all types of problems with how her life is going. It was up for awards. It was praised by critics. It was beloved by me. Have a look …