Your Netflix Instant Weekend: BARRY MUNDAY, DUMPLINGS, and more

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
January 13th, 2011

Chances are it is cold where you are. I know this because when it's this freaking cold all the way down here in Austin, Texas the temperature is usually at some low number of degrees I don't even want to think about farther North. My suggestion: stay inside and watch some movies magically beamed into your home via Netflix's Instant service this weekend. Of course, that's always my suggestion.

The problem is, though, the recently added titles stack higher than the snow mounds in Boston. Fortunately, I keep a constant eye on what is being added each week and I have selected some of the best for you. This week we look at a movie about a man who must lose his manhood before truly manning up, a story of a woman who goes to extraordinary lengths for beauty, and a truly impressive Fritz Lang film-noir.

BARRY MUNDAY

Remember a few weeks ago when I said I was prone to hyperbole? Well, back when I first saw BARRY MUNDAY at SXSW last March, I predicted it would be an indie sensation. It would appear that has not happened (yet) but I still feel like the film is deserving of such success. Patrick Wilson plays the titular character, a horny lug of a man coasting through everyday responsibilities as if they were hurdles he must cross to find the next partner he may bed. One day, he goes after the wrong girl and ends up in the hospital sans testicles. Making matters worse, he learns he has most likely created new life with a feisty faux-feminist played by Judy Greer. Together, these very incompatible people must figure how to work together in the interest of the impending baby.

Ridiculous, over-the-top caricatures slowly give way to fully fleshed out, lovable characters over the course of BARRY MUNDAY's runtime. Patrick Wilson proves himself a sharp comedic actor and Judy Greer channels her Arrested Development character to excellent effect. It is a surprisingly sweet film considering its about a womanizer who loses his balls shortly after getting a woman he won't remember pregnant. Bonus points awarded for bit parts by Malcolm McDowell, Cybill Shepherd and Billy Dee Williams.  (Available in HD)

DUMPLINGS

First, a history lesson. In 2002 an anthology horror film was made utilitzing the talents of three of the hottest directors in Asia: Peter Chan, Ji-woon Kim, and Nonzee Nimibutr. The result was mediocre at best with only a few standout moments. However, two years later a second anthology was put together with Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike and Chan-wook Park in the directors' chairs. The product of this effort was far better. This second film was released in the US as THREE... EXTREMES. Based on the success of that release, the original film was released in the US as 3 EXTREMES II. Confused? Enough history, all you truly need to know is, out of the six segments across both films, "Dumplings" by Fruit Chan found in THREE... EXTREMES is the best. Even better? There's a full length version which contains 50-some more minutes of twisted storytelling.

Li (Miriam Yeung) is an aging former TV star who seeks out the help of Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), a woman famous for her dumplings which seem to have a rejuvenating property that reverses some of the effects of aging. Trying to recapture her fading beauty and win back the waning affections of her husband (Tony Leung), she chooses to ignore the horror of the source of the dumplings' ingredients. To say any more about this wonderfully twisted, painfully beautiful (the cinematography by Christopher Doyle will leave you breathless) cautionary tale would be to spoil its magic. Suffice it to say, this is a film for mature audiences with a stomach for the macabre which, while graphic, never feels gratuitous. This is top-shelf horror and recommended for fans of the original short (which you should seek out to see how things develop differently) and horror junkies new to the DUMPLINGS story alike.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

In Fritz Lang's 1944 film noir, Edward G. Robinson is middle aged Professor Richard Wanley, a man who finds himself the center of intrigue after a chance encounter with a beautiful woman (Joan Bennett) leads to murder. As the pair try to dig themselves out of the hole they've dug, lies pile upon lies and Richard finds himself very close to the police investigation. A masterpiece of tension, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is a fantastic, uncomplicated film-noir some feel is marred by an oft copied plot point. I won't reveal what that plot device is or when it occurs (you'll know when it happens) but I will say I couldn't disagree more - it fits with what the movie is trying to be and makes it a more complete package. Lang mastered several genres in his brilliant career and this is one of his most accomplished noirs (SCARLET STREET, also starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennet and available to stream, is just a skosh better).

The Wildcard - CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD

What captured my attention about this film when I saw it in the listings was Christopher Lee. I have to admit something- my recommendations aren't always 100% blind. I do a small bit of research once something has caught my eye, just to make sure I'm not insane. Just because Christopher Lee is in it doesn't mean it's good (see: SEASON OF THE WITCH). What I found with this film was individuals consistently stating that they went in with little or no expectations and came out pleasantly surprised. It appears to be a classy, stylish horror film with a Hammer feel that has fallen into near obscurity. The plot synopsis boils down to a story abut the evil Count Regula who has been tried, convicted, drawn and quartered for killing 12 virgins in his torture chamber. Several decades later he returns to seek revenge and obtain immortality. Judging by the trailer below (which is in unfortunately in German, the version on Netflix is English dubbed) it looks to be a moody piece of gothic horror that I'm quite anxious to watch. Here are some alternate titles for the film: THE BLOOD DEMON, BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS, THE SNAKE PIT, THE SNAKE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM, THE TORTURE ROOM, and TORTURE CHAMBER.

If you're looking for more...

There's been so much added since the New Year, it's very hard to whittle down the recommendations to a manageable size. A few of these are leftovers from last week  and a few from this week. The UK mystery-thriller EXAM is about a group of job candidates trapped in a room forced to figure out the question that goes with an answer they don't know they have. Adam Green's FROZEN is a quick, intense thriller about a group of people trapped on a ski lift. Considering the winter weather nationwide (except for those lucky SOBs in Florida), this seems like an appropriate choice. Mel Brook's class BLAZING SADDLES is unmissable. A great compliment to last week's recommendation of CLEOPATRA JONES is Pam Grier in FOXY BROWN. The Oliver Stone Vietnam epic PLATOON is now available. The British anthology horror head-scratcher with 42nd St. wraparound story SCREAMTIMEis passable entertainment. Just be sure you can stand an entire story based around the Punch and Judy puppet act and swazzles. THE ASPHALT JUNGLEis John Huston's heist/noir classic. Queue up both A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT SEX COMEDYand EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX * BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK for some Woody Allen brand comedy. William Devane + Klaus Kinski + time travel = TIMESTALKERS. If you're half as afraid of dolls as I am you may want to check out DOLLY DEAREST for some frightening horror fun this weekend. It may not be full of ELECTRIC BOOGALOO but that doesn't mean the original BREAKIN' isn't a butt-shakin' good time! Finally, if you haven't see the sci-fi/action/satire masterpiece ROBOCOP it is time to rid yourself of that monumental shame.

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