This week’s movies: April 20-26

Now You See Me

Netflix summary: Brainy magicians Atlas and Henley lead a troupe of illusionists who specialize in robbing from the rich, in the form of banks, and giving to the poor, their audiences, all while trying to outwit a team of FBI agents determined to bring them down.

★★★ Actually pretty entertaining considering the director, Louis Leterrier also worked on the oh-so-bad Clash of the Titans (2010) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), both of which I gave two stars. This movie did genuinely have me laughing. And I just can’t say no to a movie with Michael Caine in it.

Monsters University

Netflix summary: This prequel to Pixar’s popular animated tale Monsters Inc. once again features eccentric monster pals Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan. Set during their college days, the film tells the strange and amusing tale of how the pair became friends.

★★★ The best way to watch this is to be a kid (or watch it around 4:20). I find almost every Pixar movie delightful and this one is pretty good considering it’s a prequel.

The Killing

Netflix summary: A young Seattle girl’s disappearance sets in motion this moody crime series centering on a conflicted detective who’s working on the case.

★★★★ While this isn’t so much a movie as it is a television series (owned by Netflix!) I still count it. From the first episode I was hooked. Being a Seattleite, I appreciate the attention to detail concerning the location (willing to forgive them on overdoing the rain). If you crave series marathons or crime drama, this is something  you should check out.

How do I rate my Netflix movies?

Let me first start by saying that five stars is not enough to accurately rate how you feel about a movie. I’d be more down with a ten star rating. Netflix offers its definition of its star rating when you hover over the icons: hated it, didn’t like it, liked it, really liked it, and loved it. I’ve broadened my own definitions of the ratings below. Mostly I use the rating system to keep a running count of all the movies I’ve seen in my entire life (as of 4/24/2014 I am at 1367). My default rating is usually a three.


★ “Hated it”

= Loathed it to the point of getting angry when I think about its existence.

★★ “Didn’t like it”

= Disinterested and possibly offended.

★★★ “Liked it”

= Enjoyed myself but wasn’t amazed. Might watch it again, might not.

★★★★ “Really liked it”

= Liked it and will probably watch again or recommend to someone.

★★★★★ “Loved it”

= On a level with Star Wars and I should probably buy it.

This week’s movies:

Don Jon

Netflix summary: Jon Martello’s romantic exploits are legendary among his friends, but his obsession with online porn saps his enthusiasm for real sex. As he searches for intimacy–or avoids it–Jon meets two women with vital lessons to teach him. Rated R. 1 hr. 30 min. 2013.

★★★ Wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be considering the premise. Although I’m fairly suspicious that Joseph Gordon-Levitt just really really wanted an excuse to use a Brooklyn accent.

Pirate Radio

Netflix summary: In 1966, hard-partying British DJs have the time of their lives running a radio station on a ship in the North Sea, broadcasting generation-defining (but banned) music to millions. But they face getting shut down by a government minister. Rated R. 1 hr. 57 min. 2009.

★★★ Fairly predictable but definitely had some laugh-out-loud moments. The cast includes a lot of talent. Loved the soundtrack.

Soylent Green

Netflix summary: Set in a polluted, congested New York City in 2022, this sci-fi thriller stars Charlton Heston as Robert Thorn, a gumshoe looking into the murder of a corporate executive (Joseph Cotten) whose company makes a nutritious synthetic food called Soylent Green. But in the process of tracking down the killer, Thorn unearths shocking information about the product’s ingredients. The cast also includes the great Edward G. Robinson in his last film role. Rated PG. 1hr. 37 min. 1973.

★★★ I love old movies’ predictions of the future. This one does not disappoint.

Free Willy

If you were born, as I was, in the mid-80s, perhaps you will recollect this nugget of pure cinematic gold: Free Willy. It was released in 1993, the same year as The Sandlot, Cool Runnings, Groundhog Day, Hocus Pocus, Homeward Bound, Jurassic Park, Look Who’s Talking Now, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Once Upon a Forest, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Surf Ninjas, The Three Musketeers, Coneheads, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, and So I Married an Axe Murderer; all of which loom over my childhood like influential guardian angels, ensuring my development into a conscientious, upright human being (other, less notable films released that year include The Piano, Philadelphia, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and Schindler’s List). It was the 90s, a time of environmentalist propaganda foisted on upon our innocent selves (think Ferngully). We loved it.

Ah, Free Willy. It’s a classic tale of a boy and his whale. Blond, twelve-year-old orphan Jesse is running the streets like a mad ruffian until he gets busted vandalizing the tank of Willy, resident Killer Whale. Luckily a Social Worker brings him to his new foster parents: Annie and Glenn Greenwood. Jesse-the-asshole shows his gratitude through loving dialogue:

Glenn: So what is it you’re into, Jesse?
Jesse: I’m not into talking while I’m eating!

Glenn: It’s pretty late, I think you should go up to bed, Son.
Jesse: I’m not your son.
Glenn: Yeah I know that.

Annie probably has a line in there somewhere but I was too distracted by the giant jean camel toe that is her existence. Mostly you wonder why they aren’t beating the assholiness out of Jesse. But I digress. Meanwhile, Dwight-the-Social-Worker sets Jesse up working for the company that serves as stand-in for SeaWorld, replete with villainous business owner slash would-be whale assassin by the name of Mr. Dial.

While cleaning up the graffiti on the Orca’s cage, Jesse gets to know Willy, who is also somewhat of a hooligan (Willy too disregards authority). Randolph, the obligatory Native American, lets Jesse in on the sad truth: Willy has also been separated from his mother and longs to return to her. A friendship is born: Jesse plays the harmonica to Willy and in return, Willy saves Jesse from drowning. Soon Jesse is able to connect with this whale on a level he’s never had with a human being. Which is why it cuts us to the core when Willy, overwhelmed and stricken with stage-fright, puts the kibosh on the show for which Jesse and Willy have been training. You can almost hear Willy saying “I ain’t no sellout.” Mr. Dial, a modern-day Ahab, decides to take drastic measures to solve this problem: Kill the whale.

Randolph: Dial is trying to collect the insurance money. Willy’s worth a million dollars.
Jesse: A million dollars? Randolph let’s free him!
Randolph: What?
Jesse: Let’s free Willy! We can take him by the bay, and put him back in the water.
Randolph: I don’t like this job anyways!

Soon we’re on a rip-roaring adventure with Jesse, Willy, and the gang as they make a mad dash for the shore. Mr. Dial is right behind them. After fisticuffs between the gang and Mr. Dial’s gangsters, Willy is released into the bay. But wait! Mr. Dial in his infinite foresight, already had fishing vessels in the bay! Just before Willy makes a gravity-defying leap over a solid stone jetty, Jesse cries “Don’t forget me, okay? I won’t forget you.” And Willy is off to his real mother, something that can never happen for Jesse. In the final scene we cut to the Orca party montage. Willy and Mom are splashing along to “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson as the credits roll.

Netflix is my Boyfriend

I decided to try a free trial of Netflix the summer of 2006. I was back home after freshman year of college. The days were long and I couldn’t get a job to save my life, so I got Netflix. The original plan was to use it just for the summer and then quit when I got back to college and studying….I’ve had the three-DVD-at-a-time plan, uninterrupted, since that summer. I witnessed them add streaming, back when you were limited to 18 hours streaming a month. I witnessed them piss everyone off by trying to separate the DVD service from the streaming (didn’t even cross my mind to cancel even though I thought it was a dumb business move). I witnessed them create their own shows. It’s been a roller coaster of a relationship, me and Netflix.

People wonder how many movies you’ve seen with a Netflix account for eight years. I’ve rated 1360 movies.

I don't always watch Netflix meme