A24 Films

[Number of movies rated as of 12/21/2015 is 1572]

I’ve been waiting for Amy to come out for a while since I missed it in theaters. The previews for other A24 films had me intrigued so I picked up The End of the Tour as well. I might have to go down a A24 rabbit hole now….

 

Amy

Netflix summary: Though singer Amy Winehouse released only two albums during her brief and stormy career, she left an indelible mark on pop music. This affecting documentary recounts her meteoric rise to fame and the addictions that ended her life at age 27.

★★★★ With interviews from friends and family, this movie shows us a more complete version of Amy Winehouse than other biographical films that have come out about her life. It reveals just how damaging being famous can be.

 

The End of the Tour

Netflix summary: In 1996, “Rolling Stone” reporter David Lipsky accompanied acclaimed author David Foster Wallace on a five-day promotional tour, which is chronicled in this affecting drama that focuses on the bond they form through casual and profound discussions.

★★★★ This movie would probably be uninteresting to someone who isn’t an English lit major or a big reader. I’ve had Infinite Jest sitting on my bookshelf for years now and this movie just might be the inspiration I’ve needed to pick it up.

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Latest Movies: October 1 2014 – January 16 2015

[Number of movies rated as of 1/23/2015 is 1465]

Super

Netflix summary: When his wife (Liv Tyler) falls in league with a drug dealer, average guy Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) dons the guise of a superhero, dubs himself the Crimson Bolt and tries to keep a tagalong comic-book store clerk (Ellen Page) from becoming his sidekick. But it’s hard to be a superhero when all you’ve got to work with is a pipe wrench. Kevin Bacon co-stars in this action-driven dramedy from writer-director James Gunn.

★★★★ It’s been several months since I watched this movie. Netflix says I gave it four stars so I’m going with that.

Django Unchained

Netflix Summary: Accompanied by a German bounty hunter, a freed slave named Django travels across America to free his wife from a sadistic plantation owner. Quentin Tarantino directs this modern-day spaghetti Western.

★★★ This was the second time I’ve watched this and I was hoping to enjoy it more than I did the first round considering my love for Tarantino. It lacks something in Tarantino’s other movies, however…is it that he doesn’t humanize the villains? I’m still not sure. Good, just not great.

Fargo

Netflix Summary:Police chief Marge Gunderson — a serious sleuth who’s sharper than her folksy accent suggests — is hot on the trail of a Minneapolis car dealer conspiring with two kidnappers to snatch his wife so he can pocket part of the hefty ransom.

★★★★★ Love this movie, it’s one of my favorites. I was tempted to watch it again after going to a wedding in the midwest. All of the accents reminded me of this movie.

Hungry for Change

Netflix Summary: This documentary exposes secrets the diet, weight loss and food industries don’t want consumers to know about: deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more. Find out what’s keeping people from having the body and health they want.

★★★ Meh this movie does not introduce any theories you have not heard before.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Netflix Summary: Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career — involving audacious scams and confrontations with the FBI and other agencies — ended in federal prison.

★★★ Nothing new here. Just another movie glorifying drugs and financial fraud. Di Caprio and Scorcese’s names are the only thing that put this movie in the spotlight.

Tollhunter

Netflix Summary: While investigating a series of suspicious bear killings, a group of students trail a mysterious “hunter” who tries to elude them at every turn. The group soon learns that his prey is far more dangerous and mystical than mere bears.

★★★★ I am more familiar with Norwegian-grandmother version of trolls, so this was a pretty cool interpretation of Scandinavian folklore, for me at least. I haven’t seen too many Norwegian films, I’ll have to remedy that….

Women Who Kill

Netflix Summary: Top comediennes Amy Schumer, Rachel Feinstein, Nikki Glaser and Marina Franklin join up in New York City for one hilarious night of stand-up comedy. From racism to pregnancy, nothing is off-limits as each comic delivers her own sharp point-of-view.

★★★★ I credit this for introducing me to Marina Franklin, who I hope does more stand-up soon.

Women Aren’t Funny

Netflix Summary: Comedian Bonnie McFarlane enlists Joan Rivers, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman and other greats to put to rest the notion that women aren’t funny.

★★ Sometimes funny things happen in this documentary but….mostly not. Women are funny…just not the woman who made this IMO.

Reefer Madness

Netflix Summary: In this 1930s propaganda film turned cult classic comedy, a group of teens seduced by the power of “reefer” take a few puffs and instantly become psychotic killers, rapists and jazz addicts.

★★★ In retrospect, propaganda is always hilarious.

Skyfall

Netflix Summary: When a serious menace threatens MI6, James Bond is on the case — putting aside his own life and personal issues to hunt and obliterate the perpetrators. Meanwhile, secrets arise from M’s past that strain Bond’s loyalty to his longtime boss.

★★★ Meh. For some reason I have zero interest in Bond movies. I just don’t. I’m not actually sure I’ve watched an entire one. Not even this one; I stopped paying attention and started playing around on the internet mid-movie.

Sleepless in Seattle

Netflix Summary: Fate and a tenacious 8-year-old boy conspire to unite lovelorn widower Sam Baldwin and unhappily engaged journalist Annie Reed in this Oscar-nominated romantic comedy inspired by the 1957 classic An Affair to Remember.

★★★ I haven’t watched this movie since I was a child and I decided to re-watch this in order to see if I could spot familiar Seattle landmarks now that I live in downtown. It’s a classic 90s RomCom.

Enlightened

Netflix Summary: After a major spiritual awakening during rehab, businesswoman Amy Jellicoe resolves to redesign her life toward higher goodness in this arch HBO sitcom. Trouble is, her friends and colleagues have little use for the new, philosophically improved Amy.

★★★★★ While a little slow-moving, I highly enjoyed this dark comedy HBO show. The pilot had me rolling on the floor. Laura Dern does a fantastic job of balancing a character who is both gratingly irritating and somehow inspiring. With the mask of a New Age compassion, she manages to take down the corporation that put her in mental-health treatment center she goes to in the pilot. One reviewer accurately noted it walks the edge between a life lesson and a parody. Definitely recommend.

Family Tree

Netflix Summary: In this mockumentary series from Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock, Chris O’Dowd plays a 30-year-old struggling to find his identity. Luckily, he inherits a box full of characters when a great-aunt leaves him her belongings.

★★★ I ❤ Chris O’Dowd and genealogy so this seemed like something I would enjoy. It definitely had the feel of a show that wasn’t doing so well and had to be wrapped up pretty quickly but I found it hilarious.

Now to start (late) what I call “Action Movie January” where I gather all my Stallone, JCVD, Hackman, Eastwood, Schwarzenegger, Gibson, and De Niro movies.

Latest Movies: August 13 – September 31

[Number of movies rated as of 10/3/2014 is 1444]

 

Russia’s Toughest Prisons

Netflix Summary: Three Russian prisons unlock their doors to an international film crew and reveal what life inside is like for the nation’s most brutal criminals.

★★★ Holy Christ Russians are super intense in their prisons. For example, they have bred their own breed of gigantic, violent dogs to bark in the prisoners’ faces nonstop. And yet once you hear what the prisoners did to get in there…you question your initial reaction.

 

National Geographic: Inside Guantanamo

Netflix Summary: This documentary chronicles the daily routines of captives and guards at Guantanamo Bay detention center, showcasing its briefings and operations.

★★★ I watched this immediately following Russia’s Toughest Prisons, and I have to say, I am no longer concerned about the prisoners in Guantanamo. They should be glad they aren’t in a Russian prison.

 

Bermuda Triangle Exposed

Netflix Summary: This exposé dives deep to explore the 440,000 square miles of ocean below the deadly marine graveyard known as the Bermuda Triangle.

★★ I was hoping this would be cooler than it turned out to be. But it was an interesting look at the theories of why so many people have died or disappeared in this area of the ocean.

 

World War Z

Netflix Summary: A U.N. employee races against time and fate as he travels the world trying to stop the spread of a deadly zombie pandemic.

★★★★ I do love me some zombie flicks. This one does draw a lot on other films but then offers up its own twist on what I like to call “zombie theory.” A worthy watch.

 

Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden

Netflix Summary: In this dramatic recreation, U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 trains for a critical mission, then executes a tough nighttime raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.

★★★ I think I was drunk when I watched this. An interesting watch if you’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty.

 

Inside: Lego

Netflix Summary: Travel to Lego’s Denmark headquarters to learn about the toy manufacturer’s history and production, as well as the CEO who helped revive the brand.

★★★ Legos were probably my favorite toys growing up so I was immediately interested when I saw this documentary on Netflix. It’s pretty fascinating to see the machines that make legos and interviews of the people who work there. Although I think more women should be featured–girls love legos too!

 

Mama

Netflix Summary: Two girls left to fend for themselves in the forest for five lonely years after the death of their mother find refuge in the home of their uncle. But it soon becomes clear that the girls have not arrived alone in this woodsy supernatural chiller.

★★ I remember seeing the preview for this movie back when it first came out and thinking to myself, “No way in hell am I going to watch that.” It looked way too scary for my overly imaginative mind. However, having recently procured a 55″ 1080p television, and free HBO, I’ve been doing a bit of movie-watching, as you can imagine. Nothing is sweeter than commercial-free HBO bliss. And one Saturday, trapped in a languorous fit on the couch, the movie Mama started post-Goonies. Unwilling to change the channel to one that would have commercials, and almost immediately captivated by the opening scene, I resumed my supine position. The movie does start out pretty freaky. Near the end it tumbles when they show the monster too much. Horror movies need to keep in mind that it is the unknown that is the most terrifying. And the end? What the hell? How was anyone okay with that ending?

 

Lone Survivor

Netflix Summary: Mark Wahlberg stars as Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell in this action-drama based on an ill-fated real-life mission to bring down a Taliban boss. The stakes get even higher when Luttrell and his unit are ambushed in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan.

★★★★ The fight scenes seem very realistic–I kept feeling like I was trapped and being shot at. Mark Wahlberg does a great job. I would definitely recommend this movie if you’re into this genre.

 

The Monuments Men

Netflix Summary: In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them. Written, directed and starring George Clooney.

★★★ In the middle of this movie, after noting the terrible writing, I asked aloud “I know George Clooney directed in it and is starring it it…did he write this?” Two seconds later, Netflix DVD envelope clasped in my fist, I confirmed my suspicions. There are a lot of long, significant pauses, concluding with anticlimactic statements that fall flat. But I’m glad I watched it and there were some funny lines here and there, along with a great cast. This movie made me want to read the book of the same title.

 

The Walking Dead

Netflix Summary: In the wake of a zombie apocalypse, survivors hold on to the hope of humanity by banding together to wage a fight for their own survival.

★★★★★ I just love this show and have been re-watching it to prepare for its season 5 premiere on October 12, 2014.

 

Latest Movies: July 1 – August 12

[Number of movies rated as of 8/12/2014 is 1426]

American Horror Story

Netflix summary: Exploring humankind’s unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors.

★★★★ This show hooked me like a sea bass. I don’t tend to watch horror movies but the fact that it was in serial televised format intrigued me. Interestingly, each season begins with a new setting and new characters while keeping mostly the same cast. Jessica Lange kills, both literally and artistically.

 

Her

Netflix summary: In this sci-fi romantic comedy starring Joaquin Phoenix, love comes to a lonely young writer in the sleekest of packages when he finds himself falling for the advanced operating system he purchased to run his life.

★★★ An interesting look at how technology is redefining how we emotionally connect.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life

Netflix summary: It’s a wonderful film. Frank Capra’s inverted take on A Christmas Carol stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a good man who’s spent a lifetime giving up on his dreams in order to keep life in his small town humming. When a guardian angel named Clarence finds a despondent George poised to jump off a bridge, he shows George what life would’ve been like had he never been born.

★★★★ We’ve all seen the ending to this movie whether we’ve wanted to or not. This being the first time I’ve actually watched the movie from start to finish, I found myself weeping at the end. It deserves its place in all the best movie lists.

 

Doomsday Bunkers

As the leader of Deep Earth Bunker, Scott Bales builds one-of-a-kind bunkers for eccentric clients who are preparing for the end of the world.

★★★ Mildly interesting look at a quirky engineer who has the enviable task of running his own business making bunkers for people who are totally batshit. This show lead me to….

 

Doomsday Preppers

★★★★ This show isn’t actually on Netflix…so I had to turn to the shady world of streaming television from sketchy websites. During the length of each episode, National Geographic follows three different #preppers and their efforts to ready themselves for when “shit hits the fan.” They store massive quantities of food, arm themselves to the teeth, and warn their children that roving bands of vandals will one day break into their house, steal their food, and rape them all…unless they’re ready for it. God I love crazy people. The strangest part of the show, in my opinion, is that after the preppers reveal all of their food stores, weapons, inventions, and paranoid fantasies, National Geographic rates their preparedness and offers them suggestions for how to be even crazier. It always sounds something like “while the experts agree that having five years worth of food in your basement will prepare you for an impending pole shift, they think you should have a better security system and more gallons of water.”

I will  probably write up an entire article about this show.

Latest movies: June 1 – July 1

[Number of movies rated as of 7/7/2014 is 1421]

 

Ok it’s been a while, cut me some slack; it’s summertime and one just doesn’t feel like being indoors watching movies, particularly if one watches them on one’s laptop in one’s 10×10 apartment bedroom because one doesn’t have a TV. Anyway, this is what happened after I finished Orange is the New Black #OITNB.

 

Swordfish

Netflix summary: Determined to get his mitts on $9 billion in a secret DEA account so he can use it to fight terrorism, rogue agent Gabriel Shear recruits encryption expert Stanley Jobson to hack into the government mainframe.

★★★ While anyone who knows anything about network security might find this movie farfetched (did I just out myself as a network nerd?), that’s not really the purpose of the movie…Ok why didn’t anyone tell me Hugh Jackman was this hot in 2001? Also, Halle Berry’s boobs. I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained.

 

Best in Show

Netflix summary: Master mockumentarian Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman) is at it again with this snarky send-up of canine culture that traverses the galloping neuroses surrounding one highly competitive dog show in Pennsylvania. Talented improvisers Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean and Catherine O’Hara elevate this satire to the stuff of genius. Fans of This Is Spinal Tap, television’s “SCTV” — and dogs, of course — will find much to love.

★★★★ I loved this movie when it originally came out (2000). The jokes about Starbucks seemed so cutting-edge back then. This movie does a good job exploring the strange relationships people have with their dogs, particularly in the dog show industry.

 

Japanese Story

Netflix summary: During a field trip, geologist Sandy (Toni Collette) has the unfortunate luck of being marooned in the Pilbara desert with a man she can’t stand. Finding him completely irritating and rather egotistical, Sandy soon learns that his feelings for her are just as contemptuous. The saying that things can only get better doesn’t apply to these two, as their increasingly remote location only adds to the already challenging situation.

★★★ Well of the many Australian movies I’ve rented this year, I thought I might find more than two that weren’t completely depressing. The plot summary above does not hint at the tragedy this, and most Australian movies are. After discussing it with a couple Aussies I learned that “Australian people don’t even watch Australian movies.” Although I thought the acting was good and the plot somewhat compelling, I have removed all other Australian movies from my queue. You may be wondering what were the two Australian movies that don’t make you want to end your life: “Kenny” and “The Castle.”

 

Being John Malcovich

Netflix summary: When puppeteer Craig Schwartz discovers a portal into John Malkovich’s brain, he decides to sell 15-minute excursions into the esteemed actor’s mind. But soon, Craig’s wife becomes obsessed with the experience.

★★★★ Didn’t entirely get this movie when it first came out, possibly because I was in 6th grade. But on revisiting it, I found it hilarious. Thought-provokingly layered while also being self-deprecating. And overall just trippy. John Cusack does a great job.

 

Persuasion (1995 version)

Netflix summary: Nearly a decade after breaking her engagement to sea captain Frederick Wentworth because of pressure from her financially strapped family, Anne Elliot meets up with him again and finds she still has feelings for the now rich and successful officer.

★★★ I put this in my queue after reading the book earlier last month. It was meh. A typical situation where the movie veers from the book and I didn’t nearly enjoy it as must as I could have. No chemistry between the main characters is a big no no for any Austen adaptation, in my opinion.

This week’s movies: May 18-25 and May 25 – June 1

Confession: All I watched these past two weeks was Orange is the New Black

 

Orange is the New Black

Netflix summary: From the creator of “Weeds” comes a heartbreaking and hilarious new series set in a women’s prison. Piper Chapman’s wild past comes back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates.

★★★★★ Yes! What could be more entertaining than throwing a waspy, upper-middle class, blonde woman into a prison. She starts out pathetic and we watch her slowly evolve into the crazy person she already was…. A little glad I watched this series late so that I don’t have to wait too long to find out how the cliff hanger from season 1 ends. Season 2 premieres on June 6!

This week’s movies: May 11-18

North by Northwest

Netflix Summary: What if everyone around you was suddenly convinced that you were a spy? This classic from master director Alfred Hitchcock stars Cary Grant as an advertising executive who looks a little too much like someone else and is forced to go on the lam (helped along by Eva Marie Saint). Hitchcock’s sure-handed comic drama pits Grant against a crop duster and lands him in a fight for his life on Mount Rushmore — a true cliffhanger if ever there was one.

★★★★ Watch this movie if for no other reason than to see Cary Grant act insanely drunk. Or to watch people fist fight on Mount Rushmore. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and agree with its place in the AFI top 100, along with basically every other Hitchcock movie.

Pillow Talk

Netflix Summary: Womanizing songwriter Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) spends hours on the phone wooing his many women. Problem is, he shares a party line with prim interior decorator Jan Morrow (Doris Day), who’s miffed because she can’t get any calls. Then Brad gets a gander at Jan — and it’s lust at first sight. Realizing he’s a goner if Jan learns his true identity, Brad concocts a Texas persona to seduce her. When the truth comes out, there’s hell to pay.

★★★★ Knowing the historical context of the women’s movement and the censorship rules, makes this movie seem brilliant. A good representation of the cultural segue from the 1950s to the 1960s.

Your Highness

Netflix Summary: When a twisted wizard kidnaps the virginal fiancée of a valiant prince, his ne’er-do-well brother grudgingly joins his sibling on a quest to rescue the beautiful damsel. Along the way, the duo meets their match in a fetching female warrior.

★★ It’s not so much that I didn’t like it. It’s just that I’ve come to expect good comedy from this crowd and this movie just didn’t meet those expectations. 

This week’s movies: April 27-May 2

Batteries Not Included

Netflix Summary: After their apartment building is bought by an unscrupulous developer, Frank and Faye Riley (real-life couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy) face eviction. But the poor retirees receive help from an unlikely source: a clan of tiny robotic aliens.

★★★ One of my favorite quotes from this movie is when the girlfriend of one of the main characters storms out of his apartment and yells “This is the 80s Mason, nobody likes reality anymore!” And indeed fans of reality will not enjoy this movie, which is about magical robots that want to fix everyone’s problems. I watched it as a kid though so there is a warm spot in my heart for the kind of cheese in this movie. Definitely no E.T., but Spielberg manages to make aliens heartwarming again.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Netflix Summary: To celebrate Valentine’s Day, teachers at a boarding school take a group of students on an outing to the mysterious Hanging Rock. Soon after their arrival, the headmistress and three girls go exploring and mysteriously disappear.

★★★★ Very much the Australian version of A Passage to India, in my opinion. The idea of the void consuming people. Like most famous Australian movies, it’s a bit of a downer, but worth it.

Stand By Me

Netflix Summary: Four boys seek adventure and heroism in the Oregon woods with their search for a missing teen’s dead body in the 1950s. What they uncover about themselves along the way, however, means even more.

★★★ I assume my rating for this movie would be much higher if I’d grown up with it. It does pretty well as far as coming-of-age movies go. Reminded me of The Sandlot. A much much darker version of The Sandlot.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

Netflix Summary: Trace the fascinating lives of New Zealand’s provocative music and comedy duo Jools and Linda Topp through this enjoyable documentary, which details the lesbian twins’ rural upbringing, political activism and immense popularity at home and abroad. Featuring hilarious interviews with several of the sisters’ most outrageous alter egos, this joyous celebration also includes brilliant insights into New Zealand’s history.

★★★ I’ve never heard of the Topp Twins but I stumbled across this movie in a search for New Zealand films prior to a trip to New Zealand and Australia (also why I watched Picnic at Hanging Rock). I always love a good documentary and the Topp Twins does not fail.

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.