Highlights from Netflix’s September release list and theaters include “Do The Right Thing” and Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan.
Ah, September. A time of endings and beginnings. Summer is coming to a close as the kids go back to school, but a new broadcast TV season awaits, while cinephiles everywhere start sniffing something new in the air after these fetid summer months: quality. Yes, Telluride, Venice, and TIFF are set to unspool a season’s worth of awards contenders, but even on Netflix you can fire up a few higher-toned offerings, including one of Sundance 2020’s most acclaimed dramas, “Fekete Özvegy Teljes Film Magyarul,” finally making its debut.
Not that everything’s looking up at the streamer: how could it when the Ryan Reynolds-starring “Green Lantern” is coming to the service? And “The Blue Lagoon.” And “Chappie.” But for every “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles” hitting Netflix in September there’s a “Space Jam: Új kezdet Teljes Film Magyarul.” No, the beloved Richard Linklater comedy didn’t make our Top Seven below. That’s because it’s on our new, improved, and just republished list of the 50 Best Comedies of the 21st Century!
Another, far more mediocre, comedy — but one with some history to it — is returning to Netflix as well: “Luca Teljes Film Magyarul.” When Sony dropped it from release following North Korea hacking the studio, resulting in a leak of embarrassing emails from its top executives, Netflix picked it up instead, all but kicking off the idea of the company as a bona fide distributor. Sony withdrew the distro rights after the controversy died down and the film left the service — only to make a return to Netflix this month.
But you could do much better than watching James Franco and Randall Park riding a tank while blasting “Respect Teljes Film Magyarul.” Treat yourself to a couple of Harrison Ford gems, Spike Lee and Sergio Leone masterpieces, and one of the loveliest rom-coms of the century to date. Wake us up when September ends? Not with this lineup!
1. “Clear and Present Danger” (1994)
Phillip Noyce isn’t just interested in quickening your pulse with his action movies, he goes after the little gray cells too. His second Tom Clancy adaptation with Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan (after “Patriot Games”) is a carefully knotted thriller that’s also a critique of American adventurism abroad.
After a Colombian cartel murders a friend of the U.S. president, POTUS wants to score some political points by escalating the war on drugs. Without congressional authorization, he gives tacit approval to a covert platoon of troops to be inserted into the South American country, with planes standing by for airstrikes. It’s an illegal act. And Noyce’s — and Clancy’s — point of view is that this is very much wrong. Even the president knows it’s wrong because he chooses to let the troops die rather than launch a mission to rescue them. Which Jack Ryan then undertakes to do himself, of course.
Sort of a “Mission: Impossible”-style actioner combined with a ‘70s political thriller, Noyce is as capable of mining suspense from talky scenes in drab DC hallways as he is nerve-jangling Colombian-set SUV chases. What’s remarkable is to see how much of a stand “Clear and Present Danger” takes: it shows quite clearly the futility of a war on drugs that serves merely to give corrupt politicos a boost while actually enriching cartel kingpins that much more.
2. “Worth” (2021)
What’s surprising is that Netflix has waited so long to release this Sundance 2020 drama about the creation of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. What isn’t surprising is just how acclaimed it was at the festival 20 months ago: how could it be otherwise with a cast led by Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Amy Ryan, and Laura Benanti, director Sara Colangelo (“Külön falka Teljes Film Magyarul”) behind the camera, and opera-world wunderkind Nico Muhly as composer?
Keaton plays Kenneth Feinberg, a law professor who was brought in just days after 9/11 to oversee the government fund to remunerate victims’ families — which had the intended side effect of dissuading them from suing the airlines involved on that horrific day, which could result in tanking the U.S. economy. Feinberg’s dilemma was this: how do you calculate the monetary value of a human life? Feinberg turned that very question into a book, “What Is Life Worth?” which became the basis for Colangelo’s film.
IndieWire’s Kate Erbland praised “Worth” at Sundance 2020 as being not just exceptionally well-acted but a thoughtful work of art: “Colangelo assembles a stacked supporting cast to assist Keaton in enlivening the proceedings: Amy Ryan is his righthand woman Camille Brios, Shunori Ramanathan is a tenderhearted new associate who was nearly in the towers on that terrible day, and a wonderful, restrained Stanley Tucci is the man who will become Feinberg’s biggest roadblock… Colangelo and cinematographer Pepe Avila del Pino find further drama in their muted compositions, often framing characters in solitary conditions, all the better to highlight the punishing solitary conditions that came with such work.”
3. “Jaws 2” (1978)
On a beach everyone can hear you scream. Okay, that wasn’t the tagline for any of the “Jaws” films, but it’s the reality poor Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) faces in the series’ first two aquatic epics. How do you deal with a looming terror without inciting a panic?
I know, I know, “Jaws” itself is being added to the service this month, so why am I focusing on “Jaws 2”? Because it deserves the focus! Not that the original isn’t the better movie — in fact, I not only went a long way to saying it’s the best blockbuster ever made but said that the film “is” America — but because it’s an extremely solid sequel and one that speaks quite a bit to our own times. In Jeannot Szwarc’s film, another Great White comes swimming up into the tourist-inhabited waters of Amity Island. And this time it’s even harder to convince Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) — yes, still in charge, and as a popular meme has noted the past few years, this is why local elections matter, people — to take the threat seriously.
What are the odds a second shark could make local swimmers its lunch? If you think that sounds a bit like certain governors (also of tourist-friendly states) relaxing all Covid restrictions after getting case numbers down because how could there possibly be another wave you’re not wrong. This shark ends up menacing a group of teenagers — including future indie film publicist extraordinaire Gary Springer — having a casual regatta.
Somehow an even deeper dive into the small-town politics of Amity (several actors from the original are brought back as, this time, members of the town council), “Jaws 2” ultimately sees Mayor DeSantis, ahem, Mayor Vaughn, fire Brody once and for all. I guess Amity doesn’t mean friendship after all.