1. At its best, streaming video offers the potential for discovery — the chance to track down and reappraise a hidden gem which you’d never have seen otherwise. For the month of August, I’ll be counting down movies that were panned by critics when they were originally released, and arguing that they’re actually worth a second look.

    Only God Forgives has been polarizing from the very beginning, when its 2013 premiere at Cannes earned both a chorus of boos and a standing ovation. With just 40 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, a plurality of critics dinged Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn “failing to add enough narrative smarts or relatable characters to ground its beautifully filmed depravity.” 

    When the film hit theaters in the United States, my own take was more or less in line with that consensus. My original review called Only God Forgives ”stupid, needlessly gory, and generally unpleasant,” while acknowledging that I was very happy I had seen it — once.

    I would stand behind all of the negative charges I leveled against the film — but more than a year after its release, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Only God Forgives' mesmerizing style and rhythm. Coming on the heels of Drive — his biggest hit, both critically and commercially, by an enormous margin — Nicolas Winding Refn fearlessly exploited his expanded cachet to deliver a blood-drenched, almost perversely uncommercial movie that pulses with its own dark vision.

    Drive star Ryan Gosling re-teamed with Refn to star as Only God Forgives' Julian, in a role that requires him to speak just 17 lines over the course of the film. Julian — an expat drug dealer living in Bangkok — winds up at the center of a nightmarish revenge spiral that begins when his brother Billy rapes and murders a 16-year-old girl. In retaliation, a stoic, brutally effective police lieutenant (Visthaya Pansringarm) allows the girl's father to seek revenge, and Billy winds up dead. In retaliation for that crime, Gosling’s grieving mother — a crass, sadistic egomaniac played beautifully by Kristin Scott Thomas — demands that Gosling seek revenge on everyone she deems complicit in Billy’s murder.

    Despite its bloody, twisty-sound narrative, Only God Forgives is less of an action movie than an arthouse movie. The film takes place in a lurid, neon-drenched vision of Bangkok, and its brutal and unsparing acts of violence are punctuated by long, languorous walks down hallways or karaoke performances.

    Only God Forgives will not be for everybody. At first, I didn’t think it was for me. But daring films can take some time to settle on the palate, and Only God Forgives' strengths have gradually eclipsed its flaws in my mind. Maybe it'll be to your taste too.

    Your weekly streaming recommendation: Only God Forgives


  2. The best online movies to watch this weekend

    The Zero TheoremDinosaur 13, and The Dog


  3. So Hollywood is dead because you’re just too cheap to pay for it? Hardly. If the popularity of Netflix is anything to judge by, users are happy to pay for content they deem to be fairly priced and worthwhile. … In regards to Hollywood’s current summer slate, customers voted with their wallets.

    Internet piracy isn’t killing Hollywood

    Hollywood is killing Hollywood


  4. Can sci-fi save the romantic comedy?

    Pretty Woman's famous love story shows that the genre was never really grounded in reality anyway


  5. At its best, streaming video offers the potential for discovery — the chance to track down and reappraise a hidden gem which you’d never have seen otherwise. For the month of August, I’ll be counting down movies that were panned by critics when they were originally released, and arguing that they’re actually worth a second look.

    Let me warn you upfront: you should not take The Comedy's title at face value. Stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim built their careers on offbeat showsTom Goes to the Mayor and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. But The Comedy is a different animal altogether — an uncomfortable, almost unbearably alienating film, with several scenes that are so cringe-inducing that even the darkest sense of humor might struggle through them.

    Take this scene, in which the film’s protagonist, Swanson, antagonizes a group of black men at a bar:

    The Comedy follows Swanson and his equally unlikable friends through a series of similarly uncomfortable encounters as they meander through life in Brooklyn. The film is so alienating that it almost dares you to stick with it — so it’s no great surprise that it scored just 47 percent positive reviews on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. 

    I’m not going to pretend that The Comedy is an easy film to watch. But as punishing as it can be, it also offers an unflinching depiction of an extremely specific and instantly recognizable generational type: aging, aimless losers who approach the world through a veil of irony so thick that no genuine emotion can seep in:

    The Comedy feels like a acid-laced eulogy for the hipster — an angry film about an angry person who has, despite all his privilege and opportunity, failed to achieve any kind of satisfaction or happiness, and has no one to blame for it but himself. By the time you finish, you’ll probably be angry too— but that’s kind of the point. 

    Your weekly streaming recommendation: The Comedy


  6. Even in the most masculine moments of Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Graham and John are powerless. They have their own particular techniques to assert their superiority — Graham’s seductive curiosity, John’s roaring sense of entitlement — and each is easily defeated… They both push the women to a new understanding of themselves, and suffer the results.

    The true cultural legacy of Sex, Lies, and Videotape

    Twenty-five years after its release, the film that sparked the indie boom still has plenty to say about gender dynamics


  7. The key problem with The Giver is that setting a story without emotion makes all the characters boring.

    The Giver: A frustrating, toothless adaptation that comes 20 years too late

    Lois Lowry’s YA novel still packs a punch — but its diluted film adaptation can’t stand up to its cinematic rivals


  8. The best online movies to watch this weekend

    The One I LoveRich Hill, and The Calling


  9. In reality, no single breakthrough will ever break the norm. What it really takes is many smaller advancements coalescing into a larger movement. It’s only when we see distinct and palpable change in Hollywood’s subtler bad habits that we’ll know progress is truly being made.

    5 things that need to happen before Hollywood will ever truly change

    If these changes happen, then we’ll know Hollywood is finally moving in the right direction


  10. Hollywood can’t know audiences want something different if we don’t show that desire. We’ve reached the point that it will take effort to fight the blockbuster rabbit hole. It will continue getting harder to find anything diverse at the theater, and on shelves, if we don’t make the effort to see them when they come out now.

    Why audiences are responsible for the future of cinema

    It’s easy to succumb to Hollywood’s multimillion marketing campaigns — but cinephiles need to resist


  11. Summer movie guide: All the films you should see in August

    A roundup of everything new and noteworthy hitting theaters this month



  13. If studios succeed by making bad movies, other studios will follow suit. Social media buzz becomes more important to Hollywood every year, and it won’t take many more Sharknados before studios, filmmakers, and writers race to the bottom, creating terrible lowbrow art for the sake of irony (the one thing that we do not need more of these days).

    Sharknado isn’t just stupid. It’s bad for cinema.

    Will our fixation with “so-bad-it’s-good” lead to anything but more trash?