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!

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Netflux “No Country for Old Men”

Every year, when they do the Oscars, I have to add a few of the top films to the Netflix queue.  Last year it was The Departed, this year, No Country was among those so chosen.  These have a bit in common, as they are among the most violent of the Best Picture winners out there.

One of the main themes of the film seems to be that the times are getting more violent.  All throughout the film I was wondering how often real crimes of these types are committed, essentially killing sprees.  I don’t think it’s quite so many as the movies would have you believe.  I’ve always bristled at the notion that things are not as safe as they used to be, and that notion was used throughout to help anchor the story.  As the movie progresses, though, some of the characters do mention that it was always this way in the West, so that redeemed this problem for me a little bit.

As a western, the story strangely fits.  I think the basic story itself could have been constructed in such a way that it would have fit in any locale, but all the elements of the classic western genre made it more poignant, especially the vast vistas early in the film.

The cast is definitely star-studded, and excellent.  Even minor roles were played like they were major.  A few characters who only had a few scenes were as compelling as was humanly possible.  I had a “Hey! It’s that guy!” moment with Garret Dillahunt, except I didn’t know what he had been in (I found out later that it was Deadwood and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

The ending of the movie I did not find compelling.  I think maybe I just didn’t understand it or go deep enough into the subtext to understand it.  Even though I didn’t get it, I felt like I wanted to get it.  When Tommy Lee Jones talks, you listen.

All in all it was pretty good.  If you don’t mind violence in your movies, I would recommend it, because there are so few movies out there worth watching.

Stream for you and me

At a friend’s recommendation, I have started watching Arrested Development, a sitcom show that is actually pretty good.  At first, I was getting the discs from Netflix, but then I heard about Hulu, which is a new site where you can stream some television content.  They have every episode.

The tradeoff is that there are 2 30 second commercial breaks on Hulu, whereas with Netflix, there are no commercials.  Of course, instant is better than 2 days in this case, so I’m happy with it.

Netflux “The Aristocrats”

I’d been meaning to see this one for a while, but I could never really let it drift to the top of the queue because the premise seemed questionable.

A whole movie about one joke seems like it might be a little much. That this particular joke is a classic among comedians and can be told in a myriad of different ways is helpful, especially when you have top notch comedians telling it, but it still seems like the subject matter might be light.

That being said, the movie, only about an hour and a half, didn’t drag. This is mainly by sheer force of personality of the participants and interviewees. Comedians are some of the funniest, strangest, most out there people around, and they were not afraid to show it on camera

This movie was produced by Penn Jillette, the famous magician and libertarian. That’s another reason I was interested in seeing it, as I think he is one of the most fervent and impressive advocates for free speech that is out there. The movie certainly takes advantage of the idea of free speech.

Here’s a hint: if you are easily offended, don’t watch The Aristocrats. Much of the charm of the joke revolves around how dirty you can make it, and some of these comics can make it pretty dirty. Bob Saget, for example, probably gives the dirtiest rendition.

I only laughed twice during the film. Once was at Kevin Pollak’s very funny impersonation of Christopher Walken telling the joke. The other was at another version that is simply too vulgar for me to describe to you, though if you watch the movie I’ll be happy to point out which scene I’m talking about.

One thing I wasn’t sure I liked about the movie was, unlike most documentaries, they didn’t explain who each of the interviewees were as you were moving along. I didn’t know who about 40% of them were, and I would have liked to. During the credits they did end up pointing out everyone’s names, but I still would have liked to know more about these comics.  Tim Conway also did an excellent job in the credits sequence with his “rendition” of the joke.

It’s almost as if the movie was made for comics in order to appreciate each others’ art, and we normal mortals are just along for the ride. Often that makes for a good movie, one where they’re not hitting you over the head all the time. There was definitely some aspect of that here.

The movie was very good at doing what it meant to do, so I think I will give it four stars. I recommend this film, though again, if you’re easily offended, you might want to go watch The Aristocats instead!

Netflux: “Happy Endings”

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts about noteworthy films that I got from Netflix and watched on a laptop propped up onto my chest!

“Happy Endings” is a movie about people. “People, you say?” I hear you thinking, “who would make a movie about that?” It’s about what happens when people collide, and specifically what touched me about it is that it is about what happens when people collide and it creates more people.

People in the movie have a tendency to get pregnant. Well, just the women, mostly, but the guys (sometimes) play their role. The circumstances surrounding these various and sundry activities are unusual, and the outcomes even moreso. This is not the best thing about the film, though. The best thing about the film is Tom Arnold.

Really.

Well, not really really. I’m a big fan of the work of Maggie Gyllenhaal (I always spell it right on the first try) and Lisa Kudrow is not too shabby, either. But the best part of the film, for me, came when two of the movies unique aspects came together: an earnest Tom Arnold, and words on the screen explaining the past, present, and future situations of the characters.

“You mean I have to read?” you say? Stop interrupting! Yes, there are slides that come onto the screen and they are often funny, insightful, or sweet. They are one of the many touches that give the movie a charm that is rarely found.

I would recommend you queue it up!