Archive for May, 2012

All of these lovely films are available to you right now on Netflix Instant

At the beginning of this month, in a blog titled “There’s Nothing Good on Netflix!”, I challenged you, faithful reader, to take advantage of the profundity of choices available to you on Netflix Instant Streaming and to seek out new, exciting and unfamiliar movies to sample and hopefully enjoy.

I accepted the challenge myself and thought I would share with you some of the highlights of my May of instant streaming.

Marwencol

A man is viciously attacked outside a bar.  Left severely brain-damaged and in financial ruin from huge hospital bills he retreats to the relative safety of his country home.  Attempting to deal with the mental trauma of the attack and as a unique form of therapy, he begins to build a 1/6 replica of a European town in the midst of World War II.  He populates his city with action figures and Barbie Dolls loosely based and named after the people in his life.  He creates a life for himself in the simulated city so much better than anything he knows in reality.  He takes artistic photos of the tableau which one day fall into the hands of New York art gallery.  They want to put his work on display.  He just wants to be left alone to create a better world that he has control over.  This is a fascinating documentary about a fascinating man.  Very moving.  Highly recommended.

Everything Must Go

Will Ferrell doesnt’ do ‘serious’ often.  So when he does, I actually take notice.  The last time he played anything so straight was in Stranger Than Fiction, a divisive film amongst those I know, but I liked it.  Here he plays Nick, who is having a really bad day, maybe the worst.  One of those lose your job, lose your car, lose your wife kind of days.  In bitter protest of being thrown from his home along with all of his belongings, he camps out on the front lawn.  When informed he can not, in fact, live on his lawn, he skirts the law and decides to sell everything he owns in a yard sale.  He strikes up a friendship with a neighborhood kid and slowly realizes he needs to get his shit together.  Never overly sentimental, the movie draws you into Nick’s plight and reveals a character who may actually deserve everything that’s happened to him. 

Submarine

If you can manage to look past the heavy influence of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore on this little Welsh gem, you’ll find the rather tidy story of a 15-year old looking to save his parents’ marriage and to get laid.  Though not necessarily in that order.  Lloyd Tate is a typical teenager in the throes of his first real love.  Confused by the whimsical nature of his would-be firebug paramour, he is more often content to be in her mere presence and enjoys their “friendship” while silently praying for more.  To make matters worse, his parents have grown steadily distant, a state of affairs no doubt exacerbated by the return of one of his mom’s ex-boyfriends who has moved in next door.  Too smart for his own good but not adult enough to realize it, Lloyd precariously balances the tight rope  between his precarious relationship and his dissolving home life.

Boy Wonder

A young boy sees his mom brutally gun downed in a carjacking gone wrong.  Years later, that same boy, now a young man approaches a pimp in a darkened park late at night.  A vicious fight ensues and a gun is drawn.  A bad guy dies.  This is how we are introduced to the hero of this dirty mirror version of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass.  The film eschews the superhero costumes of its distant cousin and instead chooses to focus on the vigilante mission and broken life of the troubled teen.  He has a detached relationship with his father who chalks up the various bruises on display on the boys face to afterschool workouts at a local gym.  He’s a social outcast at school with very few friends.  Meanwhile, a freshly promoted detective with her own troubled history is on the case of the park murder.  She starts to make connections to other vigilante incidents in town and takes a special interest in the intense, sad young man who often sits at a retiring detective’s computer looking at mug shots of vicious criminals trying to identify the person who killed his mother.

That’s all I’m going to give you.  You’d do well to watch any of these flicks.  Now go watch them.  Or go find some of your own and tell me about them.  Do it.  I’ll be here.  Waiting for the next great flick.

The urban dictionary defines NERD RAGE as a term used to describe extreme anger, offence, indignation, and other similar emotions by a nerd, geek or similar which can be triggered upon seeing a favorite film/show/comic book/etc degraded or insulted in some way

As long as there have been books and comics with fantastical elements that have been adapted into television programs or motion pictures, there have been nerds complaining that said films or programs based on these fantastical comics or books do not closely enough adapt the material contained within said comics or books.

In other words,  nerds like them books, illustrated or otherwise, and take great umbrage when them thar movies aren’t exactly like their beloved tomes.

To this I must say

The most recent perpetrator of this terrible crime, it would seem, is HBO’s Game of Thrones.  I love the show.  Think it may be one of the best things on the ole’ boob tube these days but I have to be honest and admit that I have not read one single word of George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus.  Many of my friends have and attest to it’s greatness.  I’ll take their word for it.  I’m sure it’s alright.  I’ve just never had an interest in ‘high fantasy’ as I understand it is called. 

Over the last few weeks of the series’ second season, I have seen more and more complaints on Twitter and Facebook that it’s starting to stray from the source material.  People are dying or not dying when they’re not supposed to.  Events are not taking place in the proper order or perhaps not happening at all.   And the greatest crime a television/film adaptation can make is to create entirely new events out of thin air.  Man, that shit ain’t right.

Sorry I can’t be more specific.  Like I said, I haven’t read the books.  And I don’t tend to read the complaints.  I’m not too terribly worried about spoilers but I don’t go search them out.  As long as Tyrion doesn’t die, I don’t care.

Pimp

One of the biggest television hits of recent years has been AMC’s The Walking Dead based on the Robert Kirkman comic book of the same name.  Mr. Kirkman sold the series as a depiction of what happens after the typical zombie movie is over.  The survivors make it out of the city but their ordeal is far from over.  It’s just beginning.  The series is quickly approaching its 100th issue which is something most new series from Marvel or DC never even get close so it’s safe to say it’s an unqualified success.  The TV show is no different in that regard.  The ratings steadily improved over the course of the second season.  I’m a big fan.

The TV series quickly established after the pilot episode that it would not tell the exact same story in the exact same manner that Mr. Kirkman did.  The first season ended with an episode set at the abandoned CDC in Atlanta that never happened in the comic.  A character survived much longer than the did in the series and another died years before he did in print.  New characters were created and familiar characters acted different.  There were different romantic pairings.  Most of the same storybeats were there but they were approached in a new manner.  They did eventually get to Hershel’s farm and eventually wise fans of the show came to see Hershel as the badass he truly is.  I’m glad he’s going to be around for Season 3.  He dies in the comic.  Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen on film.

 

Busting caps in zombies like a mothereffin’ boss

The Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings novels are geek catnip and both were translated into ridiculously successful film franchises.  And both took great liberties with how the stories were translated to film.  Perhaps, there are budgetary reasons why changes are made.  Maybe cuts were made to make the story manageable and to fit within a reasonable running time.  There are innumerable reasons why things in print don’t get to the big screen.  These decisions are made by people who know a lot more about what works than I do. They are stupid rich because their movies make money.  That’s not a bad thing, mind you.  That’s the reason the movies get made.

Would I consistently make the same choices that producers, writers, and directors make in how to adapt the stories?  Obviously not and it doesn’t matter because those choices are not available to me.  But you know what is available to me?  The books.  The comics.  No one can change those.  They’ll always be there for us.  No series or movie can change that.

Bottom line:  If the story being told to me in the moving images on a big screen in a building or the little one in my living room is enjoyable, well told and well acted, it wouldn’t matter to me if it were adapted from a piece of toilet paper.  Good is good.  That’s all that matters.

Amber Heard

This young starlet first caught my eye in a little seen, to date unreleased in the US of A horror/thriller called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.  In it, she plays the title character, a young virginal high school girl who became something of a  hottie over the course of the long summer.  The popular jocks decide to invite the suddenly beautiful young lady to a secluded ranch house for a weekend of boozing, drugging, and they hope sexing.  They don’t realize that someone else has an eye out for young Mandy and is keen on eliminating the competition.  The movie is fun and Heard is great in it portraying that burgeoning sexuality that girls who supposedly don’t realize they’re pretty always seem to exude.

Heard went on to be ridiculously badass and sexy  in the Nic Cage 3D horror/action/comedy mash-up Drive Angry in which she cusses, punches and sweats.  A lot.  I’m okay with all of that.  Especially the sweat.

Amber is from Austin and still has family here.  And a couple years ago, she came out as a bisexual stating that she really didn’t care about gender, just the person inside.  All of which means, I’ve still got a chance.

If you see this woman, tell her I love her.

This!

Posted: May 20, 2012 in Movies, This!
Tags: ,

Jaws Blu-ray

Jaws [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet] (Universal's 100th Anniversary)

Why this?

I’ll tell you. Back in 1979, when I was all of 7 years old, my father took my cousin and me to see the classic killer shark movie directed by Steven Spielberg. In retrospect, it was probably grossly irresponsible of him to take a couple of young kids to see that flick. Hell, my cousin was a couple years younger than me. Still, I’m glad he did. At that tender age, I was more affected by the visceral thrills of the movie. The brutal attack of the skinny dipper. The sudden death of that Kintner boy. The shocking discovery of Ben Gardner’s remains by Matt Hooper in the wrecked fishing boat. The bloody fate of Quint.

It wasn’t until I was much older and had seen the very first summer blockbuster a couple dozen of times that I grew an appreciation for the more subtle aspects of the film. The camaraderie between the three intrepid shark hunters as they get drunk, one up each other’s scars, and listen to Robert Shaw’s riveting account of the sinking of the Indianapolis. The sparse use of Bruce The Shark in the first two acts of the film, which while necessitated by mechanical difficulties throughout the film’s production ended up proving highly effective to build tension and anticipation. That mystery around the shark leads up to the ultimate payoff and one of the best line’s in movie history, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’ And of course, there’s John Williams’ iconic score.

It’s a perfect little movie that has stood the test of time and I cannot wait to buy this on the day it comes out so I can race home and watch all it all over again.

Jaws will be released on Blu-ray on August 14th.

Movies so bad they’re just too damn good

The Happening

I used to actually look forward to M. Night Shyamalan movies.  About the time Lady in the Water came out, I realized that what had once been anticipation had steadily turned into dread.  Fear even.  I had such little faith in the once promising writer/director/star/Hitchcock-wannabe that I completely skipped on seeing his follow-up in the theater. 

That was a mistake.  I could have shared a darkened room with literally tens of eager fans who, completely unaware of the wretched pile that Night would birth but a few years later [Editor’s Note:  I still haven’t seen The Last Airbender.  Never will.  It’s so bad I don’t even need to see it.  I’ve learned of it awfulness by osmosis], might have thought they were seeing the nadir of his career output.  But, they would have been wrong.  They weren’t just seeing a bad movie.  They were just seeing a bad movie in the wrong venue with the wrong people.

The Happening, make no mistake, is a terrible film.  But it is wonderful in its terribleness.  It glorifies in its ineptitude.  It lets its suck flag fly proudly.  It is the best bad film of the millennium.  Mark Wahlberg portrays a high school science teacher who is somehow less intelligent than Dirk Diggler.  Zooey Deschanel’s plentiful charms are wasted as his wife.  John Leguizamo has nothing to do as his best friend.  Plants are causing people to kill themselves and nobody knows what to do.  Instead, they share empty platitudes fed to them by one of the worst scripts ever written.

Cheese and Crackers.  Be scientific, douchebag.

Ummmmmmmmmmmm.  Hmmmmmm.  What?

Pure gold, people.  Pure gold.

Here’s how you enjoy this movie.  Grab a bunch of your friends.  Grab a case of beer.  Leave your brain and all vegetation at the door.  Fasten your seatbelt.  Enjoy the ride.

Thank me later.

One list to rule them all

Imagine: Our erstwhile hero/heroine is confronted with crazy events. People around them die or go missing. They’re being chased by a faceless menace. And in the end, it turns out that they are simply bugnuts and nothing we’ve been seeing is the truth because all the crazy was in their head.

I don’t know when I first was exposed to this terrible plot device. I do know that I found it very annoying. I present to you the five worst examples of this wretched trend to warn you. So that you will stay far away. There be spoilers ahead…if you consider spoiling a crappy movie a spoiler.

A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a brilliant Princeton mathematician, in this biopic directed by Ron Howard. There’s so much wrong about that sentence I just typed. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly enjoyed a Ron Howard film. I sure as hell didn’t enjoy this one. Nash struggled with schizophrenia during his college years and eventually develops a fantasy world to serve his insular nature. Of course, we don’t find this out until the end when it is revealed that his clever, witty charismatic roommate…NEVER EXISTED. He was just in Nash’s head. Look, the movie won a Best Picture Oscar. That doesn’t mean a damn thing. Ron Howard blows.

Identity

This is the only one of these ‘gems’ that I’ve seen twice. It starts as a clever spin on the classic Agatha Christie murder mystery And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians) set at a run down desert motel. It maintains a great whodunnit pace until the pointless, out-of-left-field ending where it’s revealed that all the characters we’ve just seen get killed were merely split personalities of some sweaty fat dude chilling in the back of a cop car. You see the crazy, serial killer personality was fighting for control…and oh never mind, even John Cusack can’t get me to watch it a third time.

Secret Window

Johnny Depp plays a famed mystery author with a wicked case of writer’s block. John Turturro plays Shooter, the odd man who shows up mysteriously at Depp’s cabin accusing him of plagiarism. As Depp asserts his innocence and tries to prove Shooter wrong, his accuser becomes more malevolent and violent. Yeah. You guessed it. Shooter’s just a figment of crazy Depp’s imagination. Imagine that. A crazy writer. It’s based on a Stephen King short story which I’m sure is much better. Read that instead.

The Ward

Take Identity. Replace that funny guy from Say Anything with that hot chick from Drive Angry. Substitute the beat-up motel with an insane asylum for girls. Add absolutely no nudity from Ms. Heard. Multiply by the disappointment that this dreck is directed by John Carpenter, the man responsible for some of the best horror/action films of the 70’s and 80’s. All of it together equals a giant monster turd. Fifteen minutes in I looked over at my friends and said, ‘I swear to God, if this has one of those shitty Identity/Rear Window endings, I’m gonna scream.’ I screamed.

Shutter Island

Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this dud is beautifully shot, decently acted, and long. Two-plus hours is a quite the haul to find out that Leo is just some crazy wannabe gumshoe who went off his nut when his wife died. Some creative therapy by a wacko doctor played by Gandhi has our hero running around the big island trying to solve some mystery that has no real solution. Of course, we don’t find that out till the end. I knew it going in cause I’d read the book about the same time some of these other stains had come out. Not sure why I watched the movie. Maybe I hate myself. Maybe I’m a sadist. I don’t know. The film gets the top spot on the list because it’s directed by Scorsese who should have known better. C’mon Marty. You directed Raging Bull. GoodFellas. Kundun! Well, maybe Kundun isn’t a good example.

So there you have it. Five movies you should avoid as though your life depended on it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“There’s nothing good on Netflix!”

A common refrain that I often hear from my NF Instant Viewing friends.

Here’s the thing: they’re wrong, oh so very wrong. There is an unlimited wealth of quality programming available to be seen. They’ve just got to want to find it. Hell, they might not even know it exists. But it’s there and it’s oh so good.

Part of the problem is that people come to expect instant availability of whatever movie they want to see at any time they want to see it. That’s not how the Flix works. They have to work deals with studios that cost them a great deal of money. They sometimes have to get in line behind Video-on-Demand (VOD), HBO, Red Box, take your pick. Sometimes they can get the physical discs but don’t have streaming rights. The digital home movie revolution and it’s many, varied modes of delivery is a young battle that’s just ramping up. There will be casualties along the way. But I doubt Netflix will be one of them.

I’m a voracious movie viewer. I don’t have enough time to watch everything I want to. Hell, I’ve got good TV to watch as well. I do my best though. I get out to the theater when I can and maximize my input. I own many movies on DVD or Blu-ray. I catch stuff on cable. I often find myself paralyzed at the notion of having to pick a movie to watch. It’s so bad that after hemming and hawing for half an hour in front of my movies, I’ll throw my hands up and just watch an episode of Bones I DVR’ed earlier in the week. To conquer this mountain of indecision, I’ve taken to scheduling films to watch on specific nights of the week. I’ll pick a stack of DVDs, Blu-rays and sundries, jot the title on a piece of paper, throw it in a bag and day-by-day go through the calendar and assign that movie for a particular day. And you better believe, Netflix is in the mix as well.

Not my actual collection

And those Netflix titles are not your typical Hollywood fare like the latest Marvel Comic Book movie or Adam Sandler comedy (though some of those are available.) No, they are more often chosen from the fine selection of foreign films, documentaries, direct-to-video (DTV) horror flicks, and complete TV seasons that are available unlimited for only $8 a month (plus a nominal fee if you still want delivery.) Sure I’ll catch the occasional Hollywood offering that I missed in the theater like Matthew McConaughey’s The Lincoln Lawyer (good) or the horror success Insidious (overrated), but I don’t seek those out. I’m looking for the sleepers. The movies I only heard about that might have opened in a few theater for a few weeks on either of the coasts.

Netflix is where I first saw Bobcat Goldthwaite’s incredible World’s Greatest Dad starring Robin Williams and Patton Oswalt in Big Fan. These are movies worth discovering. These are the movies you should be watching. There is nothing as enjoyable as sitting down to watch a flick you know nothing, or very little, about and being blown away. As I type this I have the Netflix app open. Under the topic of Foreign Action Thrillers, I find movies available such as the French thriller Point Blank and Korean action flicks like Chaser & The Man From Nowhere. All three movies are worth your time and your attention. Sometimes they’re dubbed in English if that’s your thing. Sometimes not. But don’t let the fact that you might have to “read” a movie deter you from an otherwise wonderful experience.

If you read this blog regularly, you know of my love for documentaries. A trip down to the recent documentary releases shows that Being Elmo, a critical fave from this past year, is available. In addition, you’ll find Werner Herzog’s riveting study of the death penalty Into the Abyss as well as Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, the account of what happened to Conan after he contentiously left The Tonight Show. Again, all three of these are easily worth a couple of hours on your Sunday afternoon.

In the horror section, you’ll find the hilarious and fun Norwegian Nazi-zombie flick, Dead Snow and the 50’s set domesticated-zombie movie Fido, a real gem from a few years back that is quickly developing a cult status. In television, you’ll find 3 FULL SEASONS of the best show on television, Breaking Bad. Hell, the first three of Tom Selleck’s awesome Jesse Stone CBS TV movies are now available. And if you are a Selleck fan, all 8 seasons of Magnum P.I. are ready for your viewing pleasure. That’s 162 episodes. People, that’s a big deal.

Nice ‘stache, sir!

I could continue pointing out thousands of titles that are worth your time and destroy any credibility to bitching about what is or is not available on the service. But that would defeat the purpose of finding some treasures of your own. Your tastes won’t necessarily match mine but I promise you that if you dig deep and hard enough you’ll find some gold.

And to put my money where my mouth is, I will for the entire month of May watch nothing but Netflix titles. I won’t even schedule them. I’m going to open up the various queues of what is new and available (or already on my instant queue), find something that catches my eye, watch it and hope for the best. It might not be good. But, it might be great.

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

 

[Update 5/14/2013:  It’s been a year since I wrote this blog and still no on believes there’s anything good on Netflix.  If you’ve made it to this update, you’ve seen a few titles worth checking out.  Problem is they might not still be available.  To celebrate the first anniversary of my most popular entry, I’m watching a whole month of movies currently on Instant.  Check out my progress at First World Solutions:  “There IS Something Good on Netflix!”]