Archive for January, 2009

Be Kind Rewind

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

I’m going to try my hand at reviewing movies without revealing too much about them.  Perhaps that is a self defeating task.   I think anything in the first five minutes is not too much.

I liked Be Kind Rewind.  It was a lot different than I expected it to be.  The previews make it look like the whole movie is basically mini-parodies/reduxs, but that ends up being such a small part of the whole thing.  It is not often anymore that I see a comedy that is more about the people in it than it is about sex. 

Like most nerds, I had not heard of Mos Def until he was in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Ford Prefect.  I’m still not sure exactly what he was famous for before film – music maybe? – but I always enjoy seeing him in films.  Granted, what I have seen him in is pretty limited.  Besides HGttG  and Be Kind Rewind I have only seen him in 16 Blocks with Bruce WillisSomehow his characters always seem so real, whether he is an alien from a planet in the vicinity of Bettleguese or he is a video shop clerk in New Jersey.  He does somewhat straight man to Jack Black’s outlandish paranoid friend, but it works.

Jack Black… is always Jack Black.  He is just one of those people who is himself so well that he always has a lot of himself in his characters I think.  Does it make him a bad actor?  I’m not sure, but I find him entertaining in everything I see him in. 

Danny Glover and Mia Farrow do a good job as well.  I don’t think I have seen Danny Glover in anything worthwhile in some time.  And I think I have only ever seen Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (ugh… any movie based on a book you were forced to read in high school never seems as good as it is supposed to be) and The Last Unicorn (granted, I didn’t SEE her in that, but, you get the point.)

I usually scope out the DVD special features and watched a behind the scenes about the town they filmed in.  I like the idea of using locals as extras, which this movie did a lot.  It seems like a lot of times you hear about film industry coming in and ruining something good when they swoop in and make a picture. (The movie State & Main is all about this.)  Its nice to see that that is not always the case.

I think this movie is a good blend of feeling good, light-hearted with a little slapstick comedy, story, and nostolgia.  Overall, this movie made me a little less cynical about the film industry.  If you like movies in general, I’d give this one a go when you are in the mood for a movie, but you aren’t sure exactly what you want to see.


Saturday, January 31st, 2009

If you have a high-speed Internet connection, XBOX 360 with a Live Gold account, and Netflix you can watch streaming Netflix movies on whatever TV the XBOX is connected to.  Until recently, I only had the high speed Internet connection and a Live Silver account.

My brother and spouse pitched in to get me an XBOX Live Gold account for Christmas (which, BTW, is cheaper on for 12+1 month for about $39 w/ free shipping, no sales tax as opposed to $50 and possibly sales tax elsewhere).  We had been toying with getting Netflix for a while and so we decided to try out the 2 week trial and see how well the streaming works.  To get unlimited streaming you have to at least get the $8.99 a month plan.  Along with unlimited streaming, we get 1 movie at a time the “quaint and old fashioned” way – through the mail.

So far it has been great!  When I first logged in, it didn’t take me long to find some available streaming titles I wanted to watch.  I was quite impressed.  I had heard the streaming selection wasn’t very good, but had gotten better.  In my opinion, it has gotten MUCH better. 

There are a lot of good movies and some excellent TV Shows available.  I haven’t looked at what they are yet, but I noticed it said there were current seasons of certain CBS shows too.  Unless you know me really well, it might surprise you to know that I added Murder She Wrote right away.  If you really, really know me, you might wonder why I haven’t tried to add Golden Girls yet. (I checked and it is not available online.  Oh well, maybe someday I will be able to stream Estelle Getty into my living room.)

I had always been curious about the new Dr. Who series ever since I saw five minutes of it after Red Dwarf once.   I was excited to find that available and have already nearly watched the entire first series (season to us Yanks.)  At first I thought not all of the series was available online because it listed 26 episodes and I could only watch 13.  It turns out those last 13 “episodes” are actually DVD special features and not episodes at all – so no biggie!

The DVD by mail turn around is actually pretty quick since I live so close to a return center.  I think if we did it right and got a little lucky, we could have a new movie every other day or so.  So far though, it seems like we will average about 2 movies a week.

Of course there are some drawbacks. 

Occasionally our Internet connection slows down, which reduces the quality of the video.  In extreme circumstances, the show has to pause and buffer occasionally.  Fortunately, we have only experienced that once, but it did take a long time to finish that episode of Dr. Who.

Sometimes a  TV series will not have a random episode available online.  My best guess is that there is something in that episode – music, a move/TV clip, etc.  that they don’t want to pay royalties on to put it online.  I have noticed this in syndicated TV shows too.  When we lived in Montana, we watched Quantum Leap on ION.  Since each episode was kind of “to be continued” it was really obvious when they skipped an episode.  There is one where he goes to the 70′s and is a disco dancer that they never showed on ION and I noticed is not on Netflix.  I guess the Bee Gees are just too pricey!  Apprently that is the reason Wonder Years will never be on DVD – they used too much good music from the 60′s.  Although that was on ION too…

Because of the nature of the mailed DVDs, you get broken discs every know and then.  This hasn’t happened to us, but did happen to our friend this week.

I think this is a great setup that is pretty affordable.  I know there are other devices besides the XBOX 360 that are capable of doing this and I am sure it will be more common to have this sort of thing come built into more and more home entertainment devices.  Sure, there is a lot that is not available on streaming and there will probably always been stuff that won’t be.  But I think the streaming mixed with the by-mail DVDs is a pretty good, affordable combination.  We probably rarely spent more than $9 a month renting movies anyway, but we have averaged more that $9 a month buying DVDs.  There will always be movies we want to buy, but it is a lot easier to resist the $5 movie bin now.  You can argue “Sure, but you don’t own anything” to which I say, “That’s okay.  I own way too much as it is.”