Brief reviews of two recently-watched Netflix streaming recommendations follow the jump.
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Based on the true story of Bernie Tiede (Black), an affable Carthage, Texas funeral director who takes up with wealthy, domineering widow Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine), then kills her.
No, wait, come back, it’s way funnier than it sounds!
Linklater, returning somewhat to the mode of Slacker and Dazed and Confused is a master of letting small-town kooks just hang out. The “interviews” with various other Carthage residents are a particular highlight, as they praise Bernie, and snipe about Marjorie as well as residents of the nearby county where the trial was held (the state moved the trial, fearing an untainted local jury could not be found. Nobody really doubts Bernie did it – he eventually confessed, after all – they just think the widow probably had it coming, and Bernie was very popular).
Black reins in his usual manic energy a little bit, and his remaining natural hamminess is well-suited to a character who is constantly performing for everyone. Bernie is someone to whom a song-and-dance just comes naturally, whether he is on-stage or off.
Four Lions (2010)
Directed by Christopher Morris
Starring Will Adamsdale, Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar
I cannot believe this film exists.
A seriously, seriously funny/dark movie about British wannabe jihadi suicide bombers. Aside from their semi-intelligent leader Omar (a very compelling Ahmed, who eloquently projects a soulful, frustrated passion), these doofuses are far more a “Spinal Tap” comprised solely of exploding drummers than a fearsome terrorist cell.
The movie does not completely skirt around the horror of the premise – despite their comedic incompetence, there are real consequences to their actions, both for themselves, and for society at large. I found Omar’s wife’s apparently-enthusiastic and proud acceptance of his aims and methods particularly disturbing.
Still, a very smart, daring, and most importantly, very funny film.