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June 17th, 2010


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12:03 am - Tales from Netflixenstan
It has been less than a month since my last batch of capsule movie reviews! It turns out that when you're paying for Netflix, you find the time to watch more movies! Which is good for everyone.

Blue Velvet: In honor of Dennis Hopper, I finally watched my first David Lynch movie. Kyle Maclachlan finds a severed ear in a field in his idyllic small town, which, like all fictional small towns, has a dark underbelly. With the help of Laura Dern, he investigates the prime suspect, Isabella Rosselini. Then he becomes embroiled in a world of sexual perversion and violence that involves Dennis Hopper saying "fuck" in nearly every sentence he speaks. I had no idea what to expect from this movie, and it turned out to be so family-friendly. Kinky sex! Nudity! Dismemberment! Honestly, the whole ordeal seems like a pointless exercise in being really fucked-up, but it's David Lynch, so there has to be more. Just like Lumberton, there's more beneath the surface. It's a strange world. B/B+

The Thaw: Last year, Seanan was really interested in getting her hands on this movie, so when I saw that it was available on OnDemand, I had to check it out. So you know how An Inconvenient Truth tried to scare global warming into you with PowerPoint? This movie decides that parasites are a better approach. Global warming thaws out a well-preserved woolly mammoth, but Summer Glau isn't involved, so it doesn't hop up and eat people or whatever. The real danger is the prehistoric parasite it's hosting, and renowned ecologist and global warming enthusiast Val Kilmer is on the case! Meanwhile, four college students (including his daughter and none other than Icetwin himself, Aaron Ashmore) find themselves trapped in a cabin with the bugs. There's lots of grossness because this is a parasite movie, but if you can handle that, it's actually a pretty good parasite movie, not necessarily for the horror aspects—which are fine and well done—but for the underlying theme of Scaring People into Action. Val Kilmer's daughter thinks we're incapable of change and the world's going to end, but Aaron Ashmore thinks if you start blowing shit up, people will wake up and Do Something. Who's right? And, more importantly, how many characters will actually make it out of this movie alive? B/B+

Following: I actually own this movie on VHS, but upanashad has had my VCR for, like, two years or something, so I was happy to find it on Instant Watch. In Christopher Nolan's first movie, a writer decides to start following people. Just following them and seeing where they go. Character work, as it were. He has all sorts of rules...which he then breaks. He follows the wrong guy, who turns out to be a burglar who takes him under his wing. Then things get complicated, as the narrative goes non-linear and the plot turns noir. There are several neat twists as the parts of the story start to come together and the missing pieces are revealed. It's a simple film, shot in black-and-white, but it has all the trademark themes and narrative hijinks of Nolan's non-Batman movies. A-

Conan the Barbarian: In preparation for my Agnes the Barbarian audition, I put this movie at the top of my Netflix queue. It's terrible! But it's awesomely bad. I submit to you the scene in which CONAN PUNCHES A CAMEL IN THE FACE. That is one of the more interesting things that happens in this movie, which is surprisingly boring. I couldn't be arsed to stay fully awake and missed an entire subplot. This is supposed to be one of the best sword-and-sorcery flicks there is. Um. Maybe sword-and-sorcery flicks aren't very good? I know I loved shit like Willow and Legend and Krull when I was a kid. But this movie...is not very good. The writing is bad, the acting is bad, everything is bad. Except the production values, which are actually pretty good. And Arnold Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles and wields a sword quite well. I will give it a point for having Mako. C+/B-

In Bruges: Martin McDonagh, of The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore fame, wrote and directed a movie this one time, and it has all of his trademarks. Colin Farrell is a hitman who accidentally kills a boy and hides out in Bruges with Brendan Gleeson, where they play tourist and he hits on a cute Belgian woman. Bruges, which he describes as a shithole, becomes a sort of Purgatory for him, as he struggles with the guilt and what to do next. Meanwhile, their boss, Ralph Fiennes, is not pleased with this turn of events and curses a lot. The film contains the graphic violence and hilarious black humor you expect from McDonagh, but set against the fairytale backdrop of Bruges. Plus, he found a dwarf actor who is not Peter Dinklage. B+

Dog Soldiers: Since I loved The Descent, I wanted to see Neil Marshall's first movie, which I'd heard was like a male version of The Descent with werewolves. Basically, you have a team of soldiers being hunted by a pack of werewolves. That's...pretty much the movie. The werewolves are large, looming beasties, and they're men in suits rather than CGI, which is always refreshing, if somewhat cheesy. It's a good horror movie, and the one female character is not just a useless love interest, but it lacks the interesting character dynamics of The Descent. As I said, there just isn't much else to the movie besides Soldiers vs. Werewolves, which was disappointing. But it's a well done horror flick, if you don't mind entrails. Inappropriate Matrix references for the win? B/B+

Toy Story: Like most people, I had a favorable impression of this movie in my mind, but I hadn't seen it in forever. In preparation for Toy Story 3, though, I wanted to see how it held up. And, you guys? It is still totally great. Hell, even the animation still looks impressive. The motion is a little jerky at times, and the faces are a little weird, but Pixar came out of the gate pretty awesome. The movie is stupid clever, the characters are well defined and interesting, and the kiddie existentialism actually works. There is practically nothing wrong with this movie. A

Toy Story 2: This movie, like the previous one, has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, except with twice the reviews. Is it really that good? Yes. Yes it is. It has all the strengths of the first movie, plus it manages to be more emotionally affecting and thematically rich. Pixar makes you care more about fucking toys than you care about some human characters in other movies. Holy crap, "When She Loved Me" is like the precursor to the Up montage. I...I...something just got into my eye, it was weird. I can appreciate how smart the movie is now, as well as how it uses toys to comment on life, loss, and loneliness. A+

Josie and the Pussycats: Rachael Leigh Cook (vocals, guitar), Rosario Dawson (bass), and Tara Reid (drums) are pretty and adorable as Josie and the Pussycats, a rock band rocketed to stardom by Alan Cumming and Parker Posey...as part of a secret conspiracy to brainwash the teenagers of America with subliminal messages forcing them to consume, consume, consume! It's an extremely over-the-top and obvious satire of consumerism and the music industry: there is product placement UP THE ASS (it's your backdoor lover), even though they didn't take a cent for it. It's also the first movie I've seen in a while that passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Parker Posey doesn't even try to act and instead has way too much fun playing the villain. This is a silly, campy, frequently hilarious movie, and as a bonus, the songs are actually good. B+/A-

Team America: World Police: This is one of those movies that's really popular in that "What? You haven't seen it? It's so great!!" kind of way. But, given how brilliant the South Park movie was, I was pretty disappointed. As a satire of American global policy and Hollywood actors, it's pretty funny. Just the very idea of the movie—that America goes around policing the world, fuck yeah!—is a good one that's taken to proper extremes. There are several pretty good jokes and running gags. But as a parody of action movies, it is much less successful. Everything is played far too straight so that the only joke is that they're puppets. I kept waiting for the undercut, but it rarely came. A lot of the movie seems to be "Oh, look, it's puppets! That's funny!! And gross!" But yeah, the songs are pretty good. B

Adventureland: This movie was hyped as being "From the director of Superbad," but it has pretty much nothing in common with it. It's not really a comedy, even; it's more of a coming-of-age drama. Jesse Eisenberg (less Michael Cera-esque here than he is in Zombieland) has to work a summer job after college at Adventureland, a crappy amusement park where his bosses are Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig doing their usual thing. He has a sweet, complicated romance with Kristen Stewart. Plus, Martin Starr basically acts like Roman from Party Down, and Ryan Reynolds...is Ryan Reynolds. It's kind of slow, but it's very sweet and honest and it treats its characters like people, for the most part. B+

I am totally addicted to Netflix, you guys. I keep rating movies and adding movies to my queue and rearranging my queue and I could spend, like, an entire week just watching shit on Instant Watch. THAT IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION.
Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Lacuna Coil - Our Truth

(31 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:thatonekimgirl
Date:June 17th, 2010 07:21 am (UTC)
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Love the reviews, and I agree, Instant View on Netflix is ADDICTING. Especially all the seasons of television - I can sit down in the morning and blink and it's midnight and I've somehow rewatched all of Firefly. Oops?
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From:musesfool
Date:June 17th, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
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You didn't mention the best part of Adventureland: the soundtrack! It was an awesome and perfectly 80s soundtrack. And it did capture the 80s pretty well, I thought.
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From:jeeperstseepers
Date:June 17th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
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Only a B for Team America? I LOVE that movie. And I think it works very well as a parody of action movies, what with the montage bit and all the gratuitous destruction. There are way too many hilarious things for me to even list as my favorites.

I'm the only communist in the world who just isn't that impressed by Toy Story, I think. Which sucks, because Anne Hathaway's birthday outing request is for all of us to see Toy Story 3. The movies are not worth even close to $12.50 for me. Oh, well.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
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The montage bit is great, but they reused it from a South Park episode. There were a lot of good bits in the movie, but when you're waiting for the movie to be over, that's not a good sign.

For a second there, I thought you meant the actual Anne Hathaway. "Wow, she must be a really big fan if she wants all of America to go see this movie."
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From:sdwolfpup
Date:June 17th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
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Totally agree about Team America. I wanted so much more from it, especially given the South Park movie.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
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It should have been so much better! What the fuck!
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From:zetetyc
Date:June 17th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
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I anxiously await your review of Air Wolf the series.

I'm not a huge fan of the toy story franchise. I will grant the A on TS1, but was TS2 that much better/different to warrant an A+?

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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
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TS1 was a fun little adventure, but I think TS2 had more emotional resonance and tackled more adult issues in a children's movie the way Pixar does so well.
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:June 17th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
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I think Blue Velvet might be to "the darkside of suburbia" movies what Psycho is to slasher horror movies - being the one that sort of started it all, it may not seem that groundbreaking anymore, but I think it holds up pretty well. Plus, this is back when Lynch still had a point for doing things, instead of just for pure self-indulgence (yes, Inland Empire, I'm looking at you).

I like Following a lot, though I see it more as a warm-up for what's to come.

Normally, cursing in movies doesn't bother me at all, but with In Bruges, it seemed like the characters were cursing as a way of saying, "We're cursing! We're edgy! Can't you see?", and it was a bit of a turn-off for me. Also, I thought that tone sort of conflicted with the rest of the story, which - if you'll allow me my Pretentious Film Critic moment - seemed like it was trying to be a Samuel Beckett story. That said, enough people have told me I should watch it again that I will give it another shot one of these days. However, I can't get behind you on the Josie and the Pussycats love - to me, it was one joke stretched out for way too long, and not even Parker Posey can save it.

Agree with you about the Toy Story movies (I actually like the second one more, because the first one seems a little too careful and studied, although I guess it has the excuse of being the first out of the gate) and about Team America not being as good as the South Park movie, although my objections are different from yours. The parody of action movies is a hoot, and I want "America: Fuck Yeah!" on a T-shirt, but when it turns into a slam on "liberal" Hollywood, it becomes tiresome (Trey Parker and Matt Stone basically are celebrities speaking out against celebrities speaking out. For comedians, they sure have a facile grasp of irony).

"Ryan Reynolds is...Ryan Reynolds."

I'm hardly the world's biggest fan - I think Definitely, Maybe, a movie I like, would have been better with someone else in the lead, for one - but I actually think you're being a little unfair here. I think he's better in this type of role than in heartthrob roles, and one of the reasons why it works here is his manipulation is pretty subtle with both Stewart and Eisenberg, and he has the whole "living on past glory" thing down pat. At any rate, though I thought the movie was a little too low-key at times, I liked Adventureland a lot, not least of which because I worked at a park like that.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
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I think Blue Velvet might be to "the darkside of suburbia" movies what Psycho is to slasher horror movies - being the one that sort of started it all, it may not seem that groundbreaking anymore, but I think it holds up pretty well.
Yeah, that's a good point.

Normally, cursing in movies doesn't bother me at all, but with In Bruges, it seemed like the characters were cursing as a way of saying, "We're cursing! We're edgy! Can't you see?", and it was a bit of a turn-off for me.
There's a pretty amusing montage of all the cursing on the DVD.

Also, I thought that tone sort of conflicted with the rest of the story, which - if you'll allow me my Pretentious Film Critic moment - seemed like it was trying to be a Samuel Beckett story.
Ha! Didn't think of it like that, but I can see what you mean.

when it turns into a slam on "liberal" Hollywood, it becomes tiresome (Trey Parker and Matt Stone basically are celebrities speaking out against celebrities speaking out. For comedians, they sure have a facile grasp of irony).
I don't know. I think it is kind of silly that we ascribe any sort of importance to the political opinions of actors. They are there to act, not tell us what to think. So I enjoyed that aspect of the movie.

I'm hardly the world's biggest fan - I think Definitely, Maybe, a movie I like, would have been better with someone else in the lead, for one - but I actually think you're being a little unfair here.
Oh! No, man, I love Ryan Reynolds (even in Definitely, Maybe). I just didn't want to give anything way about his character.

At any rate, though I thought the movie was a little too low-key at times, I liked Adventureland a lot, not least of which because I worked at a park like that.
Yes! That's a better way of describing what I meant by its being slow. Too low-key. But I also kind of respected it for being low-key in this genre. Honestly, I graded it a little higher than my actual enjoyment/entertainment value because I knew it was better than I was giving it credit for.
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From:equustel
Date:June 17th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
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Instant Watch + Streaming Disc for PS3 = DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

Netflix has truly ushered in a glorious future. My poor parents were talking about how they still wander the (now lonely) aisles at Blockbuster looking for things, when it's all so disorganized and the stuff they want is out of print or out of stock, etc. I plan on buying them a streaming box for Christmas and watching their eyes light up at the novelty. ;P

Also, so much yes to your Toy Story reviews, I am ridiculously excited to watch the third one this Friday.
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From:aprilbegins
Date:June 17th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
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aiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiaids
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I loved the crap out of that song. That is the sort of irreverent brilliance I was expecting from the rest of the movie.
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From:beeker121
Date:June 17th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
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Welcome to the dark side of netflix. My movie cue hasn't been under 200 in a really long time.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
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And I'm only getting one disc at a time! It will take me years to get through everything! And my cue is still in the double-digits for the moment because, well, I am trying to restrain myself. I know anything added to the bottom of the queue won't see the light of the day for yonks anyway, so there's not much use adding it. Its time will come when it's ready.

I've got a bunch of stuff in my Instant Queue, though, to burn through whenever.
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From:madcap_shiny
Date:June 17th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Josie and the Pussycats! Man, I loved that movie as a kid. Years later when I watched it again I also had the obligatory 'appreciating dirty humor that went over your head when you were younger' experience. (I'M YOUR BACKDOOR LOVAH~)

I thought certain bits of Team America were funny, but overall it was just, I don't even know, too shrilly excited about its own squick factor for me.

TOY STORY ACK. What I love about those movies is that I can watch them a million times and the sad/tense parts never fail to make me all anxious and ;__________; even though I know what happens, and then when the happy endings abound it still feels like a VICTORY. I really, really hope the third movie is as awesome that way. (And in all the other ways! Eeeee.)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 17th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
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overall it was just, I don't even know, too shrilly excited about its own squick factor for me.
Yeah, the uncensored puppet sex scene was very uncomfortable, and the vomit scene went on WAY too fucking long.
From:toastandtea
Date:June 17th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
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Fun fact: the Netflix queue limit is 500 dvds. I discovered this because i have been at that limit for QUITE A WHILE. Factoring in the amount of time it takes me to actually get around to watching stuff... i will have a Netflix account for approximately 50000000000 years.

I rewatched Toy Story 2 last week, as despite loving Toy Story and having seen the original a bazillion times, i had only seen the sequel once! But it was still awesome, and knowing to expect "When She Loved Me" did not make me cry any less. UGH. It's like it rips the tears right from your eyeballs. Much like The Iron Giant. EVERY. TIME. ;______;

I got sucked in to Josie and the Pussycats when it was released because i have something of a weakness for bubblegum girl power movies. (and a childhood weakness for Archie comics.) But now that i'm older i can look at it and not be completely ashamed because it is also an effectively wacky pop culture satire! PLUS the music is catchy as hell.
From:dotificus
Date:June 18th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
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who are you on Netflix? I'm Dorothy Crane, nickname Dotificus if you want to see what's in my queue.

I don't remember Blue Velvet very well, but I remember feeling that it offered something different. Something different and very very strange.

I didn't like the fact that in Adventureland the women characters felt a bit like scenery. The main character guy was having his big coming-of-age moment and they were there to facilitate it. Or so it seemed to me.
(Deleted comment)
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From:sterope
Date:June 18th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
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Get a Roku player (or other instant viewing device) so you can watch instantly on your TV. Your life will never be the same!! I have over 200 things in my instant queue. It's a little bit out of control.
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From:the_narration
Date:June 18th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
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Inappropriate Matrix references for the win?
Poor Spooner. However, he got to try boxing a werewolf and was winning, so he's pretty much secured his permanent place in the badass hall of fame.

For horrible/hilarious moments, however, for me nothing quite tops the little dog going after the Sarge's dangling guts. "Bugger off! Bugger off!"

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