March 27, 2006

Netflix Reviews

I'm stealing the idea of reviewing by weekly Netflix movies from Robbo the Llama Butcher. I signed up a couple of weeks ago and I've found that probably the best thing about this service is that because of its flexibility I end up watching a lot more DVDs that I have in a long time. Hey, when you have young kids, it's hard to motivate yourself to go out to Blockbuster or some other video store and wander up and down the display of new releases (a buddy of mine designates it as the "wall of shame") and find something - anything - worth taking a chance and wasting $5 and two hours on.

With the Netflix, you have plenty of time to browse, read reviews, discuss with the wife and throw a bunch of stuff in your queue.

First off, let be be upfront. My name is Gary and I'm a "24" addict. I'm most of the way through season one at this point and I'm kicking myself for not watching this first run. The biggest problem at this point are spoilers and I've come to accept the fact that no character is safe on this show. Any one of them can get killed off if future seasons and many are. So I'm just resigned to that fact. But this doesn't take away from the intensity of the show. I look forward to season two and beyond.

Next up, "Bend It Like Beckham". This was one my wife saw with friends at the theater a while back and she's been bugging me to see it. It's a bit more than your standard sports coming of age story. Yes, you have the teenage girl dealing with parental expectations thing. There's also the Indian v. British cultural clash aspect. But the main thrust of the story is about women who love to play football/soccer trying to make it in a "man's sport". One of things that struck me is that while Europe is often seen in this country as being so "progressive" and culturally "open-minded" the best these girls can aspire to is playing professionally in the U.S. Where are all the European women's sporting leagues? No where to be found, eh?

The United States has the WUSA, the WNBA, the LPGA...even a professional women's American Football league. Now, granted these leagues don't have anywhere near the popularity of the men's pro sports organizations but at least there's the opportunity for women athletes to compete in the sports they excel in, and get paid for it. I guess Europe has a long way to go in this respect.

Anyway, the film is funny and well-done. The lead character is Jess Bhamra, played by Parminder Nagra (who is currently starring in the series "ER"), whose talents with a soccer ball are noticed by Jules Paxton (Keira Knightly). Jules invites Jess to play on a amateur women's team she belongs to. Jess joins the team against the wishes of her parents, who would rather she follow her sister's example and find a nice Indian man to marry. The results are both comical and touching as Jess does her best to manage her family's desires and aspire to her own.

Lastly, I finally got around to seeing "Sideways" and was pleasantly surprised. Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) is a middle-aged English teacher and aspiring (but failing) writer who is really in his element when evaluating wines but is a guy who otherwise is not comfortable in his own skin. He heads up to Northern California on a week-long roadtrip with his buddy, Jack, who is getting married the following Saturday. Miles introduces his friend to the joys of wine and wine-tasting (though often a little too much tasting) but Jack is more interested in getting laid before he takes the big plunge.

The story is well-written and we gradually get to understand what makes these guys tick, especially Miles. Both men begin to reevaluate their lives at middle-age and ask the same questions that we all do - who are we and what do we really want out of life. Their exploration of wine-country leads to an exploration of themselves. There is a particularly well-written scene where Miles is discussing wine with Maya, the lead female character (Virginia Madsen), and the wine becomes a metaphor for life itself. I can see where some people might find the ending too ambiguous or open-ended but the key to the conclusion is Miles' personal growth. Where it goes from there, the viewer can fill in the blanks.

This is one of those films I think I'll probably watch again sometime - with a bottle or two of some good wine. Being a novice on the subject, I'm open to suggestions.

Posted by: Gary at 09:53 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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March 17, 2006

"P" For Paranoid

There's been a lot of buzz generated by today's release of "V For Vendetta", the latest offering from the Wachowski Brothers (who managed to take a very cool "The Matrix" and turn it into a bucket of crap with its subsequent tedious sequels).

For those who don't know much about it, the preview makes it look pretty interesting. But before you plop down your $9 to make sure you're not the only one you know who hasn't seen it, you should be mindful that this film is more than just a heroic take on terrorism and anarchy. It's essentially a Left-wing paranoid fantasy that goes after the subject of fear-mongering by doing exactly that.

In an earlier post I highlighted this early review from the Conservative film blog, Libertas. It's worth linking again. Read the whole thing.

It's you're time and money, but just be aware of what you're paying to see.

Update: 11:45am
Debbie Schlussel weighes in to point out all of the Left's favorite screeds that are present in the film.

UPDATE: 3/21/06 9:30AM
Some people have called making this film an act of courage. Bah! Mark My Words takes a look at this claim.

According to Box Office Mojo, although it was the number one movie this past weekend, it only pulled in $25 million. And as far as opening weekends go, that's a little below average for a "comic book" film. It's just a bit more than the opening weekends for such stinkers as "Hellboy" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" but less than "Sin City" and "Blade II". On the all-time rankings for opening weekends it ranked 201 just behind "Big Momma's House".

It will be interesting to see what the effect of word-of-mouth will have in next couple of weeks.

Posted by: Gary at 09:01 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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March 14, 2006

Hollywood Polarization?

America is dividing into Red States and Blue States. Will Hollywood follow suit? Jason Apuzzo of Libertas looks at the new formula for movie-making that's veering away from the standard blockbuster strategy.

Liberal Hollywood makes Liberal movies on the cheap. They hype them up, get lots of free publicity and have a narrow, yet loyal, market: Blue State America and the International community. Put it another way:

One company that’s adopted “Fahrenheit [911]”’s model is Participant Productions, founded by eBay’s Jeff Skoll. Participant co-produced “Syriana,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “North Country,” and soon will release the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and Richard Linklater’s adaptation of “Fast Food Nation.” None of these films cost very much (”Good Night” cost only $6 million), and are easy films to sell to the sort of people who read The Huffington Post or The Daily Kos. Crazy as this may sound, this business model is increasingly making sense in Hollywood’s competitive marketplace.

So here’s the bad news: Hollywood doesn’t need the Heartland anymore. There’s basically no pressure for Hollywood to change what it’s doing, because there are plenty of Blue State audiences and DVD sales out there to make even something like the gender-bending “Transamerica” a hit, so long as the film doesn’t cost too much.

I’ve heard conservatives tell me for years that ‘market forces’ will eventually force Hollywood to change, become more mainstream. The argument goes something like this: Hollywood’s product will eventually become so toxic, so nakedly political, that there will eventually be a ‘backlash’ from the public - at which point things in Tinseltown will magically change for the better.

Guess what? It ain’t happening. Hollywood simply doesn’t need the Red States any more. Hollywood’s more interested in how a film plays in Mexico or France these days than in Kansas. After all, Charles Krauthammer may hate “Syriana” - but the Germans and the Brits love it! So do the Spanish and the Italians. That’s the global economy for you - Hollywood’s now out-sourcing its audience.

But there's an upside to this trend, writes Apuzzo - one in which Conservative filmmakers can capitalize.
Phillip Anschutz’s Walden Media turned a lot of heads in conservative circles last year by pumping about $180 million into “The Chronicles of Narnia.” It was a great, successful experiment - but you won’t see another “Narnia” until 2007 - and in the meantime Hollywood will go about its usual business, merrily bashing Bush.

Anschutz’s $180 million could just as easily support twenty films - maybe about the War on Terror? Maybe about loopy Marxist academics? Maybe about snotty West Hollywood liberals who drive gas-guzzling SUVs? Anything’s possible.

Wouldn’t it be fun if a conservative company followed the model of Participant Productions, and pumped out a few low-budget conservative films each year? Such a company could kick-start a conservative film revolution. It would be a refreshing change from what we’ve become accustomed to - and wouldn’t it be great for our side to make George Clooney angry for once, rather than the other way around?

Interesting concept. We shall see.

Jason's article is also posted at Townhall.com.

Posted by: Gary at 05:00 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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March 10, 2006

"Private Joker, Why Did You Join My Beloved Corp?!?"

Friday entertainment: One of the funniest scenes of any movie, ever.

For your enjoyment. NSFW (best use headphones)

h/t: BMEWS

Posted by: Gary at 11:19 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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