VOD Log: Brigsby Bear

Early parts of Brigsby Bear looked like a badly-executed, very narrow corollary to Room — and I was thinking it headed for contention as worst of the year.  Soon enough, however, Brigsby Bear turns into a sweetly endearing and entertaining film.  There’s still too much suspension of belief required, but the movie doesn’t let you dwell on it — which is the same that could be said about the missing titles.

Brigsby Bear was yet another barely-shown yet marketed film.  In this case, it wasn’t a whole lot to miss — but that’s beside the point.  This will be the last one before my 2017 list; the remaining two are A Cure for Wellness and The Blackcoat’s Daughter.  I’ll let you know if I ever get round to watching those.

A nice surprise-bonus of Brigsby Bear: Mark Hamill is a good actor!  6/10

Comparison Notes: Recommended: The Wolfpack, The Disaster Artist, Short Term 12, Sling Blade, Superbad, Butter; Not Recommended: The Book of Henry, Captain Fantastic, Life is Beautiful


VOD Log: We’re the Millers

The terrific TBS promo for We’re the Millers had a lot to do with my desire to see the film.  This promo does not exist anywhere on the internet, that I can find, other than the fragment pasted below — and that’s a shame.  TBS should be proud of its promos.  I do have a small problem with it — there is no girl playing a saxophone on the beach in the movie.  There’s not even a beach.  The musical backdrop, indeed, has no relation to the film at all — which technically amounts to perjury.  However, I certainly can’t ding a movie based on a television network’s independent ad campaign for it.

We’re the Millers falls in the sub-50% zone on Rotten Tomatoes.  One critic wrote that “The filmmakers lack the courage of their convictions.”  Maybe so — but I know that going in.  Put another way, I judge a movie on what it is, not on what it isn’t.  I’m not expecting high art or tense edginess.  I’m expecting Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in a fairly mindless comedy.

And it works on that level.  There’s something likable about these characters, and this story — raunchy and banal as it often is.  It comes nowhere close to comparable films Vacation or Due Date, but for what it is, it succeeds — barely.  6/10

Availability: iTunes

VOD Log: Office Space

After seeing snippets here and there many times, and hearing about it in conversation on a number of occasions, I finally watched in its entirety Office Space.  Certainly it’s an iconic film, even borderline essential —  but that doesn’t mean it’s great.  The production values leave something to be desired, and purely as comedy it does not measure up to the best Apatow productions.  Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune characterized it as: “Drably shot, unimaginatively written and shallowly acted.”

Still, I recommend Office Space for its classic if rough-hewn content.  Despite its flaws, it musters up a few good laughs, and it’ll keep you in the know next time it comes up at the water cooler.  6/10

Availability: iTunes.  Comparison Notes: Any episode of The Office featuring Steve Carell (don’t bother with post-Steve Carell episodes) is ten times funnier than Office Space.  And, for a much better Mike Judge production, you may visit my post on Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.

VOD Log: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

The Three Burials - poster

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estradadirected by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, is a story of redemption, which itself was redeemed by the end.  Which is to say most of it is not terribly robust.  A mild recommendation, with all the normal caveats in place.  6/10

Availability: iTunes rental

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A Note on Home Viewing

I think that this movie would have had a greater impact on me had I seen it in the theater, perhaps even enough for a higher rating, which brings up a point I wanted to make about seeing movies in the theater versus at home.  Certain critics out there have a rating system which goes something like “Very Good, see in the theater”; “Good, but not great — wait and see it at home”, and “Don’t bother.”  A nice, simple, direct rating scale.  But a film will  have more impact in the theater than at home.  Even under the most ideal circumstances, there will likely be an interruption or two while watching at home — something that doesn’t happen in the theater.  In this case, I admit there were several interruptions, which served to weaken the impression Three Burials made on me.  So if anything, it should be “Good, but not great — make sure to see in theater because if you don’t there’s no point in bothering later.”  The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada — and many, many other borderline films fall in this category.

Point being, to say “This movie is good, but not good enough to see in the theater” is contrary to logic in my experience.  I understand this is said as a recommendation for someone not to spend as much money to watch a film of lesser quality, but in light of the quantity and higher-than-ever quality of original TV programming and selections available via VOD, this type of recommendation doesn’t hold water.  A movie that isn’t worth seeing in the theater isn’t worth seeing period.

Losing with Netflix

I am generally a fan of Netflix, but it was disheartening to see what movies were disappearing from the service come August, especially upon reviewing what would arrive in their stead.  A number of good movies, including Face/Off, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and The Fifth Element, will be leaving.  Replacing them?  Highlights include Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Season 2.  Yes, that’s sarcasm — and sadly, truth.  Point being, the additions amount to basically a big pile of garbage compared to what’s leaving.

The complete list of arrivals and departures is here.  Expect more and more good content — especially movies — to vacate Netflix.

Take Some High Profits

High Profits - image

High Profits - text block

Just want to throw out a blurb on CNN’s reality soap serial High Profits.  In this case it’s real reality, not the completely artificial, hyper-produced type of reality programming that one usually encounters.

The widely varying degrees to which pot is legalized throughout the US — and that swiftly turning national tide — is fascinating to me, and this series has become must-watch TV.  The banking situation alone has got to be fixed soon or there’ll be hell to pay.

The episodes are starting to drag briefly in spots, but they’re still quite compelling.  I suggest watching from the first episode, which you should be able to do via CNN streaming or through the on-demand section of your TV provider.  New episodes air on Sunday night.

Cinematic Greats: Elephant

Elephant - poster

I wrote in my Spalding Gray post:

The movies Leaving Las VegasElephant, and from just a week ago, Under the Skin, clawed away at me long after I left the theater.  You might say those are my demon films — so much scarier than ghost & goblin movies, because this type of haunting is personal, and real.

When a movie is keeping you up at night a month later, it got to you.  Roger Ebert gave his highest rating while astutely addressing the audience-splitting nature of the film:

ElephantGus Van Sant‘s “Elephant” is a record of a day at a high school like Columbine, on the day of a massacre much like the one that left 13 dead. It offers no explanation for the tragedy, no insights into the psyches of the killers, no theories about teenagers or society or guns or psychopathic behavior. It simply looks at the day as it unfolds, and that is a brave and radical act; it refuses to supply reasons and assign cures, so that we can close the case and move on.

Elephant to me is not an unqualified masterpiece, but it’s darn close.  Highly recommended; 9/10.

Availability: Not currently available via VOD, but you can buy the DVD at Amazon for under $5.  That you can buy the DVD for so little, yet it’s not available through streaming media goes to show the balkanized, chaotic state of media access.  It’s almost worse than airfare pricing.