flick fun: point blank

If I’m using my sister’s rule that a movie should have a literal description this French thriller might be called Nurse’s Aid has a Killer Day. We follow this guy who is thrown into an incredible situation and does everything he can and more to save his pregnant wife. What makes it work in addition to the pretty nonstop fast pace is the situation and the characters. Who do you turn to when the criminals and the cops are after you? Not a revolutionary film but good fun all around.

Notable dvd releases 8/23:

  • The Beaver – I think everyone missed this Mel Gibson uses a puppet movie for good reason.
  • POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold – I’m actually remotely interested in Morgan Spurlock’s all product placement, maybe.
  • Win Win – I actually meant to catch this Paul Giamatti odd comedy on release, going in the queue.
  • Brothers & Sisters (S5) – Gave up on this season 1.
  • The Event (S1) – I never cared what ‘the event’ was.
  • Gossip Girl (S4) – Enjoyed it at first but some things weren’t meant to last.
  • NCIS (S8) – I’m actually not sure I’ve ever seen an episode of this show.
  • NCIS: LA (S2) – Not a bad procedural but I didn’t ever quite get on board with this version of military investigation.
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flick fun: cowboys & aliens

I feel like we’re heading into the Daniel Craig season. This flick isn’t all that groundbreaking even with its mix of genres but it’s entertaining.

Daniel Craig can’t remember anything, but he shows up and is bad-ass enough to make us question his background, even without the space age bracelet. When the aliens attack, it brings out folks’ true colors. Is it just me or is it hard to believe that people as attractive as Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde are compatible with 1873?

I was all aboard the people of different backgrounds coming together to fight the good fight. It didn’t really matter what they were fighting. Summer fun, plus I earned my $10 bonus on my AMC Rewards card so it was like it was free, you know except for the popcorn.

Notable dvd releases 8/16:

  • The Conspirator – I couldn’t and can’t quite bring myself to be that interested in the President Lincoln trial, pass.
  • Jane Eyre – Decently reviewed but I just can’t get that excited about the latest adaptation, pass.
  • Priest – This post-apocalyptic vampire was almost up my alley but a little too dreadful looking to bother, pass.
  • Something Borrowed – Good cast of Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin but romcoms shouldn’t be based on sleeping with your best friend’s fiancé, pass.
  • Dexter (S5) – Will he almost get caught again, alas I do love the Dexter.
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flick fun: rise of the planet of the apes

I’m not opposed to a standard sci fi action drama but was glad to see that this origins flick tried to be a little more. Before the apes ruled the world there was one. And I actually enjoyed the character of Caesar the ape, who at the hands of science, grows up right before our eyes. His awakening to his surroundings and his struggles through the movie are what really compel.

The people in the movie are all for the most part a little less dimensional. Franco is effective enough as the paternal scientist though at times his naiveté (or stupidity) is a little annoying. His pretty girlfriend, Freida Pinto, shows up just enough to make a few cautionary utterances, though mostly it seems like they don’t talk of anything happening that’s of import. And John Lithgow adds a lovely layer and emotional drive.

The special effects, primarily the apes all being cgi, is effectively done, although at times a little disconcerting when they’re just supposed to be apes. Maybe not perfect in either aspect there is both enough action as well as enough nods to a more complex allegory to keep me engaged.

Notable dvd releases 8/9:

  • Jumping the Broom – Nothing compelling me to check out this two families conflict coming up to a wedding, pass.
  • Mars Needs Moms – Animated space hijinks, pass.
  • Paul – This sci fi spoof almost looks funny from the director of Superbad/Adventureland, probably pass.
  • Super – Cast of Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, and Ellen Page almost make this this downtrodden man tries to be a superhero appealing, probably pass.
  • Your Highness – Terrible reviews kept me away from this low-brow knights genre comedy, pass.
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flick fun: crazy, stupid, love.

Steve Carell takes a nice turn as a foundering newly separated man. The relationships in this film are all funny and dramatic and complex but none is more fun than watching Ryan Gosling try to share the tricks of his trade on being a ‘real man’.

I missed the Gosling boat until now but he does a wonderful job being a shallow womanizer, without much malice. Giving tough love to his new protégé works. Even if it’s not so much the clothes that turn him around we don’t mind the makeover.

The movie is wise to give additional weight to the love in the ensemble cast; the all around stupid and crazy is entertaining. Julianne Moore has a tough task making the wife identifiable but the characters not being two dimensional is what works. Emma Stone is always likable, and Jonah Bobo does a lovely turn as youngest in love, with amusing supporting roles by Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon.

One must, as with most movies, forgive some serendipitous indulgences, at the end of the day it was quite a good ride.

Noteworthy dvd releases 8/2:

  • Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost – I enjoy these made for tv adaptations of the Robert Parker series though I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to rent them.
  • Rio – Animated bird movie, pass.
  • Soul Surfer – I hate the idea of a shark attack in the ocean and not a huge inspirational story fan so for me this is a pass.
  • Eastbound & Down (S2) – Haven’t checked this series out, not supposed to be bad, just cable and not all that interested.
  • United States of Tara (S3) – Caught a couple of these multiple personalities and although it’s now canceled might be worth a look.
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flick fun: captain america/friends with benefits

I haven’t so far been all that excited about the summer selections, when Friday rolled around I just hoped that there would be something that looked better than Thor or Transformers. Both Captain America and Friends with Benefits got decent reviews so when deciding which to see I decided not to decide.

I’ll admit I thought Captain America looked dumb, I like a good comic flick but maybe it’s just my lack of familiarity with this story. It hasn’t permeated our culture so it’s not as much one of the ones I want to see how they reinvented it. And not being familiar I can’t really tell if there was much reinvention. For those like me, it’s set in the World War II era, a wimpy guy gets a super soldier serum and fights the science guys crazier than the Nazis.

And although the movie was entertaining I am trying to put my finger on why I didn’t think it was all that. It followed the path, likable hero, crazy villain, strong and sexy romantic interest… and yet… Chris Evans is a good looking man but his likable-wimp-turned-hero ended up sort of bland. And the 1940s setting even with some futuristic challenges didn’t quite engage. That’s not to say that I might not be excited by a reinvention of the series in present day.

As for FWB it’s entirely what it should have been. To start with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake are both really likable. I’m quickly becoming a huge Mila Kunis fan, gorgeous and funny is a good combination and if she keeps getting good material (check out Black Swan if you missed it) I’m ok with that. And I’ve never been particularly pro or con with Timberlake but he is continuing to prove his acting chops between movies (check out Social Network if you missed it) and repeated performances on SNL if nothing else.

The movie isn’t revolutionary, it’s yet another take on the standard romcom but the script gives them both decent material to play with. The movie pushes a bit into the crass funny, we are focusing on the sex after all, but mostly just develops fun and of course flawed characters. I’ll even try not to hold it against them that they mock the unrealistic romantic comedy and then end up fulfilling it, I’d just be happy to find unrealistic apartments as good as theirs.

Notable dvd releases 7/26:

  • My Dog Tulip – Tempted by this story of a man and his dog, I happened to catch the Ebert where he raved about it.
  • Source Code – I missed and might catch this Jake Gyllenhaal try to stop a train explosion again and again flick.
  • Trust – Might pass on this Clive Owen and Catherine Keener dark film about the impact of a sexual predator on a family.
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flick fun: midnight in paris

I gave in, there isn’t much new out so I went and saw it. For those of you who need the context. I hate Woody Allen movies. Old Woody, new Woody, films with Woody, films without Woody… So when everyone said this was different than a regular one of his movies I took it with a grain of salt.

I don’t think this was ‘not’ a Woody Allen movie. Owen Wilson does a good turn at a man who seems to have fallen into a life of success with an empty film writing career and an annoying fiancée (I am hoping this does not make me hate Rachel McAdams in all future roles). He seems to regret the choices he didn’t make, if not the ones he did. So the spineless romanticizing man is more appealing than the awful people in present day he is surrounded by. We’re all quite relieved when he somehow heads back in time.

They do a pretty good job keeping things acknowledged as unbelievable and still as light and funny as they are ridiculous. The fun part of the movie is Wilson’s visits with the known artistic characters of the 20s. Among a host of cameos are Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali, and Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, and they’re all pretty delightful in their guest appearances in Wilson’s awakening. Although for me this was more the makings of a fun skit than a full film, it was entertaining enough to not make me regret my choice.

Notable dvd releases 7/19:

  • Limitless – I saw all but the final 5 or so minutes on a plane, entertaining enough, and again Bradley Cooper…
  • Take Me Home Tonight – I am more likely to rewatch an actual 80s movie than a new take on an 80s misfit romance, Topher Grace has yet to find the right fit in present day.
  • Doctor Who (Season 6, pt 1) – This series seems to have a cult-like following that makes me think I should check it out, obviously season 1 first.
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right service, right price?

Well another round of service updates makes it time to reevaluate how I’m getting my television and videos. For the longest time I was getting 3 discs from Netflix, I wouldn’t make good use of them every month but I would go on a few fits of watching that it made it worthwhile. Then Netflix added streaming to its regular service which once I was able to connect effectively was nice. The streaming doesn’t have everything that I wanted to watch as far as movies or television shows, maybe generously a quarter of the things and typically just the older stuff, but it was convenient. So when Netflix upped its rates I was slightly irked but realizing I didn’t need so many discs I dropped down to one disc at a time.

Now, Netflix is splitting its service into streaming for a fee and discs for a fee which of course adds up to more than my current fee:

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:
   Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
   Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

As much as I knew this would be coming in some way I’m still perturbed. The main problem is that although I don’t watch those new discs regularly I do occasionally like it as an option. If they had more content available via streaming this wouldn’t be as big of a problem but they don’t. Due to costs the assumption is they’re trying to steer people away from the actual discs but it would be nice if they threw in a couple discs a year (or something) to existing users until they get their catalog up.

What I’m going to do is admit that I don’t actually use the discs often enough to rationalize the cost. And if I ‘need’ to watch something unavailable I can for the most part get it via another service streaming. This is quicker and allows more flexibility than the discs and based on sample costs ($.99-1.99 episode and $3.99-4.99 for a new release) seems to be cheaper if I really only do it sporadically. Where this doesn’t work is for catching up on more recent series, it’s just not cost effective with costs per disc/episode.

So the plan is to wait that out, things change right? I’ve got enough backlog of things that are streaming (Weeds, Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Gallactica) that I can hold out for now on the others (Mad Men, The Wire, Deadwood). There is also unfortunately the potential for some things to be removed from streaming (which I learned the hard way rewatching Veronica Mars which lost its streaming license in the midst of Season 3).

There are a few other services that I’m keeping an eye on, that so far don’t quite meet my needs either. As much as I can remember not wanting to pay for cable I may buckle on something else, but not yet:

  • Amazon/Blockbuster streaming – These are both available as a per episode/movie option on my TiVo and what I expect to utilize to fill the gap.
  • Amazon Prime – Basically like current Netflix where you pay an annual fee and get discs shipped and some options on streaming but to my knowledge has less of a selection.
  • Hulu – Some stuff is free online but there’s also fee based Hulu Plus which has more current television that I don’t see this so much as replacing Netflix as possibly replacing cable at some point if they get their options up.
  • Apple/iTunes – To be honest I know they have a tv option but I don’t know how it works/works with iTunes, though as most folks are already plugged in to iTunes this is an option for single episodes/movies though not as easily integrated with the physical tv.
  • Video Stores/Kiosks – There’s still one of these in Safeway and I know people who still go to a store so that’s theoretically an option.

I guess until then I should try to catch the last Veronica Mars episodes before I cancel discs with the rate increase scheduled for September. What are you doing?


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flick fun: hangover part II

Ok so everyone is saying go see Midnight in Paris, even though I hate Woody Allen, and I guess I still might, but first I fit in one more not quite summer blockbuster. I’m generally not a huge fan of what I’ll call the stupid comedy, and the first Hangover certainly fits within that category. But it also brought something else to it, a sort of interesting formula. And a good cast and some funny jokes didn’t hurt.

Well if you liked the first one then they did their darnedest to recreate it. Going in and expecting that but not as good was the right strategy. The guys are reunited for another wedding and somehow ‘it happened again.’ I was mostly able to suspend disbelief, and was only somewhat annoyed by the resolution of some of the situations. The far off setting of Thailand was able to top the Vegas setting and make the ridiculous possible and I was overall able to go along for the ride of yet another uncovering of a forgotten night to save the day.

At times it takes more than a normal step over the edge of good taste, but to have them uncover tasteful behavior would be disappointing. The guys again are all good in their wacky friendship and I should admit I still could just watch Bradley Cooper in anything. It ended up being a fun ride and a good excuse for popcorn. And if you didn’t see the first one I wouldn’t start with the second, get your Netflix on.

Notable dvd releases 7/5 and 7/12:

  • 13 Assassins – An elite team of assassins, perhaps…
  • Arthur* – This Russell Brand remake just appeared dreadful.
  • Insidious – Haunted house is supposed to be pretty well done but not so much in my wheelhouse.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer – Caught this McConaughey flick based on the Connelly book and it make good plane entertainment.
  • Of Gods and Men – This monks among Muslims is supposed to be quite good, might see it.
  • Rango* – Depp voicing over this cartoon lizard western isn’t enough draw for me.
  • The Cape (Season 1) – Only a season of this ridiculous attempt at superhero appeal.
  • Damages (Season 3) – I never quite got into this Glen Close legal machinations.
  • Entourage (Season 7) – If you’re still with the guys they’re almost done.
  • Eureka (Season 4) – For a light but fun fictional science to the max goes awry town.

* releases 7/15

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flick fun: x-men first class

X-Men: First Class

So I’m not a particular X-Men fan, but I have seen the earlier ones, I do in general like a good comic book flick, and I particularly like an origin flick. The reviews were in and it was supposed to be entertaining so it sounded like a good matinee, and the right time and place doesn’t hurt.

It’s called first class so you kind of know where the story is going, but it’s basically framed around the origins of and the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. Because they have a lot of story that they’re trying to tell the movie keeps moving. Unfortunately because they’re cranking through so much territory, and because you basically have a clear idea where things are going, you’re never quite invested.

Being a comic book franchise it makes it sort of ok that the characters are basically cartoonish, not just in their abilities but in their dimensionality (or lack thereof). What worked for them was the casting of James McAvoy (Atonement) as an idealistic man, a born leader able to bridge the gap between mutant and human using his mentalist abilities always for good, and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as a tortured boy and man who is clear that his abilities to manipulate metal make him separate from humans. They each capture the essence of where Charles (X) and Eric (Magneto) come from and map to who we see them as later in life.

So I can’t for the life of me keep all of these characters straight and I might have appreciated it more (or noticed inconsistencies more) if I were an avid follower. But overall I was able to appreciate some of the character development as well as a couple of cameos. All in all it did in fact keep me entertained as a good summer matinee.

Most intriguing preview: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara/Least intriguing preview: The Change-Up with Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds

Notable dvd releases 6/28:

  • Barney’s Version – Dustin Hoffman looks back on his/Barney’s life – probably skip it
  • Beastly – A cocky hot dude, Alex Pettyfer, gets the tables turned and must gain depth and love, Vanessa Hudgens – definite pass
  • Cyrus – Can romance survive an awkward mother son relationship, with John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei – uncomfortable humor mostly worked
  • Sucker Punch – Comic booky fake reality to escape prison – definite pass
  • Law & Order: CI (Season 6) – More crazy criminals – for the usual fans
  • Rizzoli & Isles (Season 1) – Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander do the cop coroner buddy thing – for fluffy formula fans
  • Warehouse 13 (Season 2) – Weird things get found and stored, a syfy twist on partner cop formula – for syfy formula fans
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flick fun: super 8

Pchron reader Tom recently asked me, “Hey why don’t you write about movies?” (or something more elaborate than that). And as much as I love a good flick, or even sometimes a not so good one, I don’t always keep up to date. Feast or famine is sort of my way, but since I’m heading into a feast phase I thought I might take a stab at it and see how it goes. I’m still not thinking his suggestion to start reviewing international books is going to happen anytime soon…

Super 8

I had read good reviews and also seen some tweets about not spoiling it so I put this at the top of my list. I’m a fan of writer, director, and producer J.J. Abrams who we may most know from television for Felicity, Alias, and Lost but is no stranger to film-making with Mission Impossible III and Star Trek among others. But as we all know fandom can only get you so far in a movie.

In this case I wasn’t disappointed. The success of this film is taking a big budget, big action, big concept idea and telling it through a small lens. The movie is set in 1979 in a small Ohio town where they’re able to emphasize the simple things, kids riding bikes through the streets, great styling clothes, fun music, and of course make it possible for kids to be shooting a movie that takes time to develop (no flip cameras here). Showing the movie through the eyes of the kids was a strong choice, it just makes things able to be more pure. Our child protagonist suffering a recent loss was a great ambassador to their world and their summer. They’re helping a friend shoot his zombie movie and when something unexpected happens the town shows greater and greater signs that this isn’t your regular incident.

None of that would have been believable or engaging if the kids weren’t able to pull it off. Fresh talent Joel Courtney does an excellent job as well as his pack of misfit friends and of course love interest, the latest Fanning. The adults don’t have to be much more than archetypes which in this case works fine. As with any movie with a certain amount of action, and any sort of unknown, you need to suspend your disbelief, and in this case for the most part I was able. There is something about not only the world created and the way the story is told but also the juxtaposition of the kids making a movie that made some of the common themes of these movies resonate when they could have easily seemed trite. A very good summer showing.

Most intriguing preview: Cowboys & Aliens with Daniel Craig/Least intriguing preview: Zookeeper with Kevin James

Coming out on dvd 6/21:

  • The Adjustment Bureau – Matt Damon runs around with a girl he’s not fated to be with – I’ll probably skip it
  • Cedar Rapids – Naive Ed Helms get the full hotel convention treatment – Might catch it
  • Unknown – Liam Neeson’s life is erased after a car crash, or is it? – I’ll probably skip it
  • The Closer (6th Season) -Krya Sedgwick and her department are entertaining if not ground breaking solving ‘major crimes’ – Recommend for procedural likers
  • Louie (1st Season) – This is definitely an offbeat comedian sitcom but give it a shot you might be one of the folks who find it hilarious – Recommend for comedian or quirky enthusiasts
  • Medium (Full Series) – Turns out I don’t love Patricia Arquette in this but lots of fans out there enjoyed the her as seeing the dead helps solve a case wife and mother – Didn’t watch

In case I can’t keep up to date with flicks I thought I might keep an eye on what notable videos might be in the mix but we’ll see how this nets out as I move along.

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