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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

5 Perfect December Films on Netflix

best christmas movies
Finding a quality movie that matches the chestnuts-roasting mood of the holidays is tricky. My mistakes of Christmas past include renting the holiday hatefest Four Christmases, paying ticket price for Ben Affleck’s Surviving Christmas /Reindeer Games and binge-watching BBC’s 1950’s drama Call The Midwife (yikes the drama!) These finds should make for a merrier Netflixmas:

Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular
If you missed Elton and Lady Gaga performing Gaga and the Jets, or Beaker, Swedish Chef and Animal carolling Jingle Bells (or something like that song) when this aired on TV in 2013, this is your lucky hour. Now that we are past the fatigue of Gaga’s 2013 album push, this one is much merrier to enjoy.


The Trip To Italy (available Dec 22)
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s restaurant critic characters go on  another holiday road trip. If you’re looking for a light comedy, scenic Italian views and some British humor, this will likely be your cup of tea. Their first film together, The Trip, is available on Netflix now.

White Christmas
The classic film, featuring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and George Clooney’s mom, holds up better than almost all 1950s films and it features the number one hit of all time, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. It also features my favorite, Snow.

The Wolf of Wall Street (available Dec 11) 
If your December is more car horns honking and f-word cursing than Irving Berlinish, this film should fit right in. Scorsese’s fantastic film uses that other f-word a total of 506 times.

Love Actually
This modern classic only gets better with each viewing. I want to hold a sign up for Richard Curtis’ 2003 film that says,“to me you are perfect.” It just is. 

 The ten buck review: Netflix is always worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To

My dumberest review ever

This sequel isn’t a timeless comedy like the 1994 original, but it’s a very good bad-movie. Uh, let me try to explain.

Tammy, this year’s other high profile physical comedy was insufferable. It missed on more jokes than it hit and it tried to get oddly serious at the end. That was a bad bad-movie. How To Die In The West was a bad-bad movie. Director Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s film with Jim Carrey is about what we expected and wanted from a sequel. It’s a good-bad movie.

Now that’s about the dumberest review I’ve ever given.

Simply put: To fans of the original, Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s work defies film criticism. Carrey is often hilarious.

Award potential: None, of course.

The ten buck review:
At a dollar a guffaw, it’s worth ten bucks.

Monday, November 10, 2014


It’s out there.

Interstellar has high ambitions and delivers on many of them. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) combines intimate family drama with epic space cinema and delivers one of the most thoughtful science fiction films to date.

By thoughtful, I mean that you’ll disappear into the theater with thoughts in your mind that don’t include where you’re having coffee after. By thoughtful, I also mean that the next day you’ll find a dozen plot holes that are about as big as those space wormholes.

But this is not a documentary; it’s a space story — and an absorbing one. There are some forced plot devices and a bunch of scripted audience explanation that astronauts probably don’t say to each other, but I did like one highly criticized movie-friendly moment: unlike Nolan’s similarly mind-bending Inception, he gives audience an ending that is more definitive than say, a top spinning. It’s a hokey one, but geez I needed a solid ending after three hours in space.

More “awe-inspiring” than awesome, Interstellar is worth the ride. 

Simply put:  Field of Dreams’ magic + Inception’s mind bending + Gravity’s convenient storytelling

Award potential: For the Oscars in February, I don’t think this film is going to go far beyond the nominations in the top categories, but it is likely on the list for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and numerous technical awards. Last year’s Best Actor winner McConaughey is stellar in this, and so is Anne Hate-away, but alright,alright enough with them at the podium already.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Will Interstellar be great, or just alright, alright, alright?

I'm excited to see Interstellar from director Chris Nolan and featuring Matthew McConaughey, but one movie statistic has me worried that the film may not be all that stellar: Best Actor winners always follow up with a stinky film. 

It seems everything McConaughey touches on TV lately is more than alright, but you have to go back to early '90s Tom Hanks to find a Best Actor with a follow-up film that was watchable. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis should quit while he's ahead. 

I hope that McConaughey ends the Best Actor curse. The past years' damage is below:

2012: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
First movie after the Oscar win: None yet

2011: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
First movie after the Oscar win: The Players (Les Infideles)

2010: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
First movie after the Oscar win: Main Street

2009: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart 
First movie after the Oscar win: TRON: Legacy

2008: Sean Penn, Milk 
First movie after the Oscar win: Fair Game

2007: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
First movie after the Oscar win: Nine

2006: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
First movie after the Oscar win: Everyone's Hero

2005: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
First movie after the Oscar win: Mission Impossible 3

2004: Jamie Foxx, Ray 
First movie after the Oscar win: Stealth

2003: Sean Penn, Mystic River 
First movie after the Oscar win: 21 Grams

2002: Adrien Brody, The Pianist
First movie after the Oscar win: The Singing Detective

2001: Denzel Washington, Training Day
First movie after the Oscar win: John Q

2000: Russell Crowe, Gladiator 
First movie after the Oscar win: Proof of Life

1999: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
First movie after the Oscar win: Pay It Forward

1998: Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful 
First movie after the Oscar win: Pinocchio

1997: Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets 
First movie after the Oscar win: The Pledge

1996: Geoffrey Rush, Shine
First movie after the Oscar win: Les Miserables 

1995: Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas 
First movie after the Oscar win: The Rock

1994: Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump 
First movie after the Oscar win: Apollo 13

1994: Tom Hanks, Philadelphia
First movie after the Oscar win: Forrest Gump

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Is this a rare bird, or just an odd one?

Watching Birdman in the theater made me want to quote Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne (Batman, 1989) when he walks into his own formal dining room: “I’ve don’t think I’ve ever been here before.”

This non-stop, completely original ride begins as a wildy manic behind-the-scenes close up into a has-been actor’s (Keaton) life right before his play is opens at the St. James theater on Broadway.

The camera swoops in and out of each scene in what appears to be one continuous shot courtesy of Gravity cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen on film. Several times I thought I knew where the story was going and that crazy camera gave me a surprising left turn every time.

It’s only flaw? I don’t know how this story should have ended and I don’t think the creators did either. One thing I do know, I didn’t want it to end.

Simply put: Keaton soars in a daredevil film.

Award potential: Hollywood loves to nominate stories about itself, especially when it’s this good. Oscar nominations for Picture, Director (Alejandro G. Inarritu), Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Cinematography, Editing, Costume, Original Score and Production Design are all good bets.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.