My Winter’s Entertainment Has Arrived

My Winter's Entertainment Has Arrived

NaBloPoMo, Day 6

The Netflix streaming disc for my Play Station 3 arrived in today’s mail which means the sky’s the limit for my Netflixing. Currently, on my queue of nearly 400 items, there are only 99 of which can be streamed right to the TV, so I won’t be ditching the mailing of discs back and forth any time soon. There’s still a majority of stuff, especially new movies, that aren’t available to stream.

I’ll see how much we actually use it, but judging from the number of times recently that I’ve turned to Comcast On Demand and came up empty, I’m thinking Netflix streaming, stocked with stuff I know I want to see, is going to be a good thing.

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Netflix Loves Me or How Lame Am I

NaBloPoMo, Day 2

I am shocked (SHOCKED, I tell you!) to discover that I’ve been holding on to The Lives of Others since January!

JANUARY people!!

That’s two months away from AN ENTIRE YEAR that this disc will have been patiently sitting in my Netflix disc holder (which I received long ago as a charter member of Netflix) waiting for me to finally be in the right mood to watch this film. I mean, I knew I’d been passing this disc over two or three times a week, but I didn’t realize it had been SINCE JANUARY!

I swear, if I had the time and enough wakeful brain cells, I’d sit right down, pop this sucker in the DVD player and knock it off this very night. Instead, I’ll just blog about how lame I am for taking so long to get around to it and then go finish reading the last sixty pages of The Forsyte Saga.

Here’s a little bet I’ll make with myself though–I won’t queue up the BBC television version of The Forsyte Saga (which I am now absolutely dying to see) until I’ve watched and returned this one.

Keep an Eye Out for Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman

Visualacousticsposter Photographer Julius Shulman (if you don’t know the name, you probably know the image) died earlier this year. There’s a documentary about him currently making the film festival circuit, which combines two of my interests, photography and architecture, and judging from the trailer, it’s a must-add to my Netflix queue. (While I know it’s showing here at the Chicago International Film Festival, my days of fighting the crowds and paying big ticket prices at the local fest are long over.)

Have You Seen the Latest Gem From the Coen Brothers?

Judging from this attention-grabbing trailer for the Coen Brother’s newest film, A Serious Man (due out this fall) looks very promising. The trailer is a perfect encapsulation of the Coen Bros’ brand — hilarious and slightly disturbing.

The Hurt Locker: My Quota of Contemporary War Films for the Year

I don’t know what was more nerve wracking, watching the relentless tension of The Hurt Locker or seeing it in the company of a 21-year-old ROTC college senior who soon will be serving in the Army infantry God-only-knows-where. Definitely puts an entirely different spin on watching a war movie.

The Hurt Locker was just what I thought it would be: brief bits of bonding and character-establishing downtime in between intense scenes of bomb diffusing and sniper fights. It’s well directed, looks great and the acting is solid, especially Jeremy Renner as the renegade leader of a three-man army bomb squad. However, the film clocks in at over two hours and I felt it. I got a tad bored two-thirds of the way through, around about the time Sgt. James goes a little too far off the rails. His cliche return home and an unsurprising ending felt flat to me. The Hurt Locker failed to match my expectations, raised too high by stellar reviews and hype. Fans of the genre will no doubt love it.

Oh My Grey Gardens, I Can’t Wait to See This

When I heard they were making a narrative film based on one of my favorite documentary films, I was extremely skeptical, especially considering that Drew Barrymore was starring as Little Edie. After seeing the trailer, all reservations are gone and I cannot wait to see it. You can bet that when I return from my vacation, watching HBO’s Grey Gardens will be at the top of my immediate to-do list.

Review: Stranded — I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (2007)

In 1972, the small plane carrying a rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the Andes. After 72 days stranded in the cold and snow, 16 of the original 45 passengers were rescued. For the first time, survivors tell the incredible story in their own words, including the notorious cannibalism that saved their lives.

Atmospheric recreations, narrated by the survivors, give a chilling sense of the wilderness, isolation, and brutal conditions these people endured. When a group of survivors return to the scene of the crash in 2006 to pay their respects, filmmakers follow. Many of the survivors are accompanied by their children, some the same age as their fathers when the accident occurred. Sitting amid the gorgeous snow-capped peaks of The Valley of Tears 35 year later, these men are able to articulate their experience, including rare moments of profound beauty, in language that is heartfelt and hopeful. A surprisingly uplifting film.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Review: Son of Rambow (2007)

In 1982, two mismatched grade school boys bond when they work together to create their own version of a Rambo movie. Armed with a video camera, a bootleg copy of First Blood, an abundance of creativity and the fearlessness that comes from being a kid, these two grade school classmates take to the forest and the junkyard to create Son of Rambow.

For Will Proudfoot—raised as a member of a devout religious order and sheltered from TV and movies—seeing First Blood is a transforming experience, as is his friendship with Lee Carter, an aspiring filmmaker on the brink of juvenile delinquency. Will skips out on prayer meetings to leap from great heights and launch himself stuntman-like in homespun action sequences. Like Be Kind Rewind, much of the humor in Rambow stems from the hilarious hijinks, passion, and ingenuity these two pals show for their craft. As word gets out about what they’re doing and classmates join the cast and crew, the production begins to take on a life of its own, threatening Will and Lee’s friendship.

The two young leads are terrific together, good news since they carry the film. The script is quirky and clever and never cloying. And while the second half of the film isn’t as strong as the first, it ends strongly, with an appropriately tender resolution.

I give it 4 out of 5 VHS videotapes.

More Pre-Code Classics

I know a few readers of this blog are as big a fan of the pre-Hayes Code Hollywood films as I am, Night Nurse being one of my favorites.

The third volume in the mighty fine Forbidden Hollywood Collection is set to be released on DVD March 24. Six more titles to load down my Netflix queue, none of which I’m familiar with. Stars include Jimmy Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor, Ruth Chatterton, Joan Blondell and all of them are directed by William Wellman.