Netflux: “D.C. Cab”

I used Netflix’s streaming service to watch this one, which probably gives some indication of its quality. The reason you might want to watch this movie is probably the reason I wanted to: to see performances from some of the all-time greats: Adam Baldwin (of Chuck and Firefly fame), Mr. T, Bill Maher, Paul Rodriguez, Bob Zmuda and the incomparable Gary Busey. A lot of people say that Gary Busey has gone off the deep end lately. I think this movie (from 1983) proves that he was off the deep end long long ago!

The movie doesn’t really go anywhere for the first hour or so; all of the actors just get to play themselves being themselves with no plot getting in their way. They all do a great job, of course, but there isn’t enough of them! There are so many characters in the movie that you can’t gain a full appreciation for their antics individually.

Anyway, the movie is ostensibly set in D.C., which is my home base. I enjoyed some of the various D.C. callouts, and I didn’t see one coming when I should have. When the team meets at “Abe’s Place,” we eventually find out it’s the Lincoln Memorial they mean. Mr. T makes the Silent Bob speech of the movie, and then salutes Lincoln himself. It would be stirring if it wasn’t so absurd! Luckily, I enjoy absurd. If you do too, you should see this one!


Netflux: Waitress

This review will have spoilers! So, if you haven’t seen the movie Waitress, and you plan on seeing it, don’t read this review. In fact, if you haven’t seen it, go see it, and then come back and read it.

This movie was recommended to me by a good friend whose opinion I respect a lot, so I came at it with a little higher hopes and a little bit more of a critical eye than usual. I’m trying not to talk about it with her until I’ve finished the review so as not to be corrupted by alien viewpoints!

This film is one of the triumvirate of recent “I’m having this baby” films, the others being Juno and Knocked Up. While all three have their comedic elements, this is the most earnest, poignant, and realistic. These are among the few films this year that pass the Bechdel rule: the movie has a conversation between two women who are talking about something other than a man. This is a good thing.

The movie centers around Jenna, who is a waitress and pie-maker in a “pie diner” somewhere in the South. She is stuck in a marriage to a terrible guy who doesn’t let her have any freedom whatsoever and treats her like his property. She feels very trapped in her life, and then she finds out she’s pregnant. Undeterred, she redoubles her efforts to escape from her husband and also starts an affair with her obstetrician. Things come to a head when she has the baby, and she decides to leave her husband, end her affair, and meet her new baby all at the same time. The owner of the diner, who she has befriended while waitressing for him, gives her a gift big enough to start her life anew.

There are many praiseworthy aspects of the film. The performances are excellent. Captain Hammer himself, Nathan FIllion, plays the obstetrician with a cute nervous formality that I identified with strongly. Adrienne Shelly, the film-maker, plays an equally cutely nervous single girl looking for Mr. Right. Andy Griffith at 80 gives the best performance I’ve seen from him.

I don’t know how qualified I am to speak on it, but the movie seems to come from a very feminine perspective: it touches on the kinds of lives women lead, how they are sometimes treated, and what choices they are sometimes forced to make. Any (good) movie about pregnancy will have these themes but this one goes far beyond those aspects into all the realms of its characters personal lives. Work, marriage, money, psychology are all addressed without pulling any punches, which makes for very good drama.

An interesting artistic choice made by the filmmakers was that in a few very key moments in the film, the camera settles on Jenna, bringing her into focus putting everything else into the background. The key scene, where she delivers her baby, has the secondary characters (mainly her lover and her husband) literally blurred out of existence and focuses solely on the profound emotional experience of giving birth.

While the above three aspects (fulfilling the Bechdel rule, exploring all aspects of life, and focusing on the main character while blurring the secondary (male) characters) all give the movie feminist credibility, I felt there was one thing that rolled it back. In the end, Jenna had decided to run away with her doctor so that she could finally escape. When Joe (a man) gives her the gift of a great deal of money, she decides not to. This implies, to me at least, that she was planning on running away with him because of monetary reasons, not for another reason (such as love). The fact that she was dependent on all three men in the film in some way undermined the idea that she has the power to determine her own life. There are mitigating factors in both of these cases (she didn’t go with him because she met his wife, she could have obtained the money herself by entering a pie-making contest), but I think the idea still stands.

Just because a film is feminist and has good performances doesn’t make it necessarily good. But this one was, and I would fully recommend you see it (though you shouldn’t have read all these spoilers if you haven’t yet). I’m going to give it 4 stars on my Netflix account right now.

Broflix: “Appleseed Ex Machina”

My brother has a tendency to buy movies. I can’t stop him; when he wants to, he buys three or four at a time. When he buys one based on my recommendation, then I like to watch it with him to see if he likes it (and because it’s good enough that I might want to see it again).  So, this is a special edition of my Netflux review series called Broflix.

Appleseed Ex Machina is a Japanese animated movie.  I don’t really know the definition of anime, but I feel comfortable calling it that; you can correct me if you know better.  The story is science-fictional and set about 100 years in the future in a world populated by humans, cyborgs, and genetically engineered humans created specifically to run the government.  That last part freaked me out a little bit, but apparently this is not controversial in the film.

The movie is produced by John Woo, creator of such memorable Hollywood fare as Broken Arrow, Face/Off, and Mission Impossible: II.  You can definitely see his influence in the action sequences, and his trademark doves play a pretty significant part, almost an ironic reference.  The Woo-inspired action sequences at the beginning and end of the film are actually the best thing about it;  the plot can move a little slowly in the middle.

We started out watching the dubbed version in English, but eventually I convinced my brother it is much better in Japanese with English subtitles, which is true.

Even my mom eventually sat down and watched the ending with us, and she doesn’t really care for a) movies with subtitles, b) Japanese movies, or c) animated movies.  She does like the action though, and that’s what this movie is all about.  Plus, the ending of the movie isn’t particularly sad, which are the kind of movies she likes.  She and my brother commented that Japanese movies often do have sad endings.  I pledged to get her a few more subtitled movies to watch that she might like.

I definitely recommend this film to any nerd or geek or to anyone who is an action fan.  Sometimes the science fiction is out there and the plot is fairly unsophisticated, but also unassuming in a good way.   If you want to see it, ask my brother, since he apparently owns it now.