Sunday, March 30, 2014

Perflix of the Day

Ah Spring Break.  Makes you think of babes, on beaches, with beers?  Well, here in Oregon we do spring a little differently.  It started out well enough with Monday being a flawless spring day.  A flowers were blooming birds were chirping kind of day. Thusly (seemingly along with every other family in Oregon and Southwest Washington) was I required to accompany my wife and kids to the Oregon Zoo, which I understand to be a "good" zoo, though to me that seems like an oxymoron.  (When a Polar Bear is doing a strange rhythmic 12 step dance routine over an over again, wagging his head and doing the moon-walk, something is not right.  And to see 19 foot tall giraffes awkwardly splaying their legs in order to eat green grass instead of hay out of cage - to a 4 year old a thrill, to me  another example of the awfulness of humans.  You would think everyone that has been to a zoo would be forever imprinted with the idea that we need to protect their habitats in the wild, and yet the relentless destruction continues unabated.)

And yet I digress.  So, Spring Break started out fine but then devolved into a week of torrential rains with a few hours of sunshine here and there.  My pre-K son Colin and I took advantage of every ray of it, but on the days where it rained all day long (there are many days like that here - it's a temperate rainforest; it has been reported that there were 400-foot Douglas Firs here when settlers first arrived…my house may be made of one of them) we sought indoor activities such as the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and a couple movies - The Lego Movie and Muppets Most Wanted.

I had heard good things about The Lego Movie but found it to be break-neck paced and too fast-moving, especially for kids.  It felt like a video game.  I didn't really feel like I could get a good look at the animation and came away feeling disappointed.  The production quality was really good, rich, and I like the way the movie looked, but it sailed along so fast I felt like I missed a lot.  The story was pretty predictable (I fell asleep several times and not because of sleep deprivation this time) and Will Farrell was great at the end.  I would say go see it in 3D, but from the bits and pieces I've seen of Frozen, I'd say see Frozen first.  Last thing on Lego - Elizabeth Banks gives voice to Wild Style, the main character Emmett's love interest.  I went back and looked at her bio and hadn't even recognized her as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games - thought that was interesting and that I'd pass that along.  Loved the Hunger Games book series even though I found the writing to be appallingly sophomoric.  I mean, I'm no novelist, but wow - maybe I should be.

If given the choice between Muppets Most Wanted and Frozen, I would also say see Frozen first.  I saw a bit of Frozen in the dentist office and the last 30 minutes of it at my mother's house.  From what I saw it was produced in a style similar to Tangled (which, honest to God, I absolutely love and believe is one of the best animated films of all time).  I don't think the story was as moving as that of Rapunzel's in Tangled, but from what I saw it looked good.

Muppets Most Wanted was better and more fun than the Lego Movie.  Both of these you could probably wait to watch at home though the 3D is fun for Lego.  Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey are perfect for their Muppets roles, Gervais humorous as the Muppets' deceitful world tour agent, and Fey is hilarious as the warden of a Siberian gulag (yes, you heard that right).  Embarrassingly, it took me a minute to place her - I guess because of the accent and costume.

I guess I'd say all three of these are worth seeing in the theater (if you can even still catch Frozen).  Colin, who will be 5 end of May, liked Frozen the best, Muppets second, Lego last.

A little late to the game with these reviews I know, but I hope you find them useful.

*** No new Perflix to report, though I was remembering that I really, really liked Youth in Revolt (2009) which stars Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad, Juno).  Need to watch it again to make a determination if it goes on THE LIST, but you should definitely see it - in fact this may be the only useful information you get out of me here tonight.  Enjoy!
  1. Alien
  2. Top Gun
  3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  4. The Road
  5. Warm Bodies
  6. The Shining
  7. School of Rock
  8. Say Anything
  9. High Fidelity
  10. Fight Club
  11. Risky Business
  12. Star Wars
  13. Brokeback Mountain
  14. Animal House
  15. Jerry McGuire
  16. Silver Linings Playbook
  17. Dallas Buyers Club
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  19. No Country for Old Men
  20. Tangled
  21. Children of Men
  22. War Games
  23. 28 Days Later
  24. The Graduate
  25. From Dusk Till Dawn
  26. Lost in Translation
  27. The King's Speech

Friday, March 21, 2014

Perflix of the Day


Hello!

The Day (2011) stars (briefly, until he meets with his unfortunate end) Dominic Monaghan, one of Frodo's friends in Lord of the Rings apparently (remember Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck? yeah, neither do I).  I'm all for post-apocalyptic cannibal movies, or any post-apocalyptic movie for that matter.  My wife Liz hates zombie/cannibal/disease/nuclear holocaust movies but I love 'em!  Lately it's probably 20% of what I watch (there's a lot to choose from).   I was looking forward to watching The Day but was very disappointed.  Skip it.  The production quality is poor and judging by the single set (on a friend's farm?), very low budget.  It was a good idea but, aside from The Road, these cannibal movies never quite capture the desperation that would precede cannibalism.  I mean, being a cannibal would suck.  It would make you feel terrible about yourself.  And even if you became a cannibal, wouldn't that be your last resort for every meal?  I consider myself a survivor, but if the only food left on earth are other people, I'm offing myself.  The diabolical cannibals in The Day are straight out of Mad Max and hungry for "meat".  Dumb and Dumber describes this film well.  Don't waste your time on it.

American Hustle is, in a word, fantastic.  It's not perfect (I'm embarrassed to say that I actually fell asleep at one point, which goes to the pacing that I prefer) but it is a great great movie.  The cast is immense with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence headlining, and Jeremy Renner (as Mayor Polito) and Louis C.K. turning in fine supporting performances.  Robert DeNiro shows up briefly as an intimidating mobster.  Can I just say that Amy Adams is stunningly great and sexy as hell in this film, and that's coming from someone who has been in love with Jennifer Lawrence since The Hunger Games.  Lawrence is great as usual, though Silver Linings Playbook is far and away my favorite.  She is so damn hot that I can't even write about her I'll just get frustrated.  But the real brilliance emanates from Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper who put on an acting clinic for us.  I didn't believe that Bale gained all that weight for this film and suggested to my wife that it was a body double and prosthetics, but I looked it up and The Washington Post reports that he did gain 43 pounds.  I am looking forward to watching Out of the Furnace, another recent movie of his that also stars another favorite of mine, Woody Harrelson.  Cooper brings the energetic style we know him for from Silver Linings Playbook to the role as the frenetic FBI agent behind the ABSCAM operation.

Gotta get some sleep, but next I'll be writing up Blue Jasmine (which despite the hype I found to be a real yawner), Moon, and Man of Steel.  My pre-K son is on spring break next week so I expect I'll have to tell you about The Lego Movie or the new muppet movie...
  1. Alien
  2. Top Gun
  3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  4. The Road
  5. Warm Bodies
  6. The Shining
  7. School of Rock
  8. Say Anything
  9. High Fidelity
  10. Fight Club
  11. Risky Business
  12. Star Wars
  13. Brokeback Mountain
  14. Animal House
  15. Jerry McGuire
  16. Silver Linings Playbook
  17. Dallas Buyers Club
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  19. No Country for Old Men
  20. Tangled
  21. Children of Men
  22. War Games
  23. 28 Days Later
  24. The Graduate
  25. From Dusk Till Dawn
  26. Lost in Translation
  27. The King's Speech

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perflix of the Day

No changes this week but a few reviews for ya.  I'm playing catchup today, having seen a number of films over the last few weeks.  Here are some quick thoughts on each.

Elysium (2013) stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster and is directed by Neill Blomkamp of District 9 fame (I can't believe District 9 was his debut feature film - outstanding!)  Elysium is worth a look. Visually captivating - especially the technology depicted - and believable in the same vein as District 9. Jodie Foster kills as the heartless bitch in charge of defense of Elysium, a giant space station for the 1% (yes, the timing is apt).  Matt Damon's performance is, as usual, passable but forgettable.

Up (2009) is one of my favorite animated features of all time and I've been meaning to tell you about it. Starring Ed Asner as an old codger pursuing a lifelong dream, Up is very funny and well written, endearing and heartwarming.  Entertaining for all ages.  Dug is one of the finest characters written in any animated film ever.  You will love Dug.  Reminds me of my fondness for Maximus in Tangled (which if you haven't seen is the only other animated feature on The List).

American Beauty (1999) starring Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, Annette Bening, Kevin Spacey - wow what a cast.  This movie just made me feel dirty and sad.  But it also made me feel lucky for what I have.  I remember seeing it in the theater and at that point in my life hoping to god I didn't turn out to be another ordinary shirt living a meaningless life in a job I hate.  After failing to change careers to be a park ranger, I do find myself in a job I hate (it's in health insurance for christ sake) and am resigned to the fact that I am very much ordinary, average, and unimpressive, and, while some people may think my life is pathetic, my boys bring me so much joy I can honestly say I am, if not completely satisfied,  happy and comfortable with who I am and my station in life, and I couldn't care less what anyone thinks of me. We can't all be great after all. We can't all be POTUS, or an astronaut, or a pro athlete.  We will see if I still feel that way when Colin and Aiden are teenagers - maybe they will despise me and thus strip away whatever modicum of joy I have achieved to this point.  Anyway, getting back to the movie, hey, it won 5 Oscars including best picture.  Who am I to judge?  But I gotta say as good as it is, it just didn't do much for me.  It felt over-produced in some strange way to me (thinking of the day-dreaming of Spacey's character).  It is a great great movie, but perfect? Not in my opinion, at least not right now.

All the Pretty Horses (2000) - Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Directed by Billy Bob Thornton but I didn't find anything outstanding about the direction - it was pretty run of the mill stuff and took no chances.  One of Matt Damon's better gigs.  Penelope Cruz is easy on the eyes and I'm a sucker for her accent so anything she says sounds great to me.  Based on a Cormac McCarthy novel.  One of my favorite authors (The Road is one of my favorite books of all time).  My advice: skip the movie and read the book; and while you're at it, read The Road and No Country for Old Men - quick excellent reads both.

Next up:  Reviews of American Hustle, Moon, Blue Jasmine, and Man of Steel - I know I know I've been promising Moon and Jasmine for some time now - I will get there (but...spoiler alert! none of these are Perflix).

  1. Alien
  2. Top Gun
  3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  4. The Road
  5. Warm Bodies
  6. The Shining
  7. School of Rock
  8. Say Anything
  9. High Fidelity
  10. Fight Club
  11. Risky Business
  12. Star Wars
  13. Brokeback Mountain
  14. Animal House
  15. Jerry McGuire
  16. Silver Linings Playbook
  17. Dallas Buyers Club
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  19. No Country for Old Men
  20. Tangled
  21. Children of Men
  22. War Games
  23. 28 Days Later
  24. The Graduate
  25. From Dusk Till Dawn
  26. Lost in Translation
  27. The King's Speech

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Perflix of the Day

Two more going on the list today, and Pacific Rim is not one of them!  Read on.

Watched Pacific Rim (2013) for some escapism over the long weekend.  It was entertaining.  The dialogue was pretty terrible in places but the concept is interesting and Guillermo del Toro has once again made a visually captivating film and more than makes up for the writing.  There are some strange little subplot performances - the two scientists come to mind.  But especially Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chao - weird.  Worth a watch but I wouldn't send it to the top of your queue or anything.

My wife Liz and I both enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson, a very interesting historical film that made me want to read biographies of Franklin and Eleanor. It also left me longing for the countryside and unspoiled landscapes.  Let me just say I love Bill Murray and he hits a home run in this one as FDR - FDR!?  Who would have predicted that 30 years ago after watching Ghostbusters?  I really fell in love with him with Lost in Translation.  That's one I had overlooked when putting my list together a few weeks ago but I have watched it half a dozen times and it's definitely going on the list today.  The best thing about watching "Hudson" was that it reminded me of The King's Speech which is, in a word, triumphant and makes the list only now due to my oversight.

Got a new tv today.  Someday I'll tell you what happened to the last one…Anyhoo, decided to take it for a test drive with Brokeback Mountain given the incredibly beautiful cinematography, camera work and soundtrack.  This 2005 Ang Lee film is an absolute gem in every way and I can't help but write about it a little.  The writing (Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana) is beautiful, the acting doing it justice with Jake Gylenhall doing the charming (and that very well) and Heath Ledger brings in such a heartfelt performance that you ache for him the whole way.  I should also  mention that Michelle Williams gives an outstanding performance, and honorable mention to Anne Hathaway who is lovely.  It is a touching love story and some of the best film-making ever.  The three academy awards it did win (Direction, Screenplay, Score) don't do it justice.  Ledger was the best and this was the best movie, but Hollywood politics prevailed.

Next up: Elysium, All the Pretty Horses, American Beauty, and Up

Here are my Perflix as of today, in no particular order - being OCD I know I will have to rank them someday.  I wonder how many will be on this list by the time this thing runs its course.
  1. Alien
  2. Top Gun
  3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  4. The Road
  5. Warm Bodies
  6. The Shining
  7. School of Rock
  8. Say Anything
  9. High Fidelity
  10. Fight Club
  11. Risky Business
  12. Star Wars
  13. Brokeback Mountain
  14. Animal House
  15. Jerry McGuire
  16. Silver Linings Playbook
  17. Dallas Buyers Club
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  19. No Country for Old Men
  20. Tangled
  21. Children of Men
  22. War Games
  23. 28 Days Later
  24. The Graduate
  25. From Dusk Till Dawn
  26. Lost in Translation
  27. The King's Speech