Archive | Netflix Instant Queue Movie Reviews RSS feed for this section

Indians on TV- Aziz Ansari’s Master of None (2015)

10 Nov

master of none posterHas Netflix been hounding you to add it to your queue already? Well, you should.

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None has that Louie vibe that I love, mixed in with some High Maintenance; it combines a sarcastic and deadpan sense of humor with musings on relevant and often complex issues. Four episodes in, and I am already loving how Ansari tackles race issues with couth (in episode 4, “Indians on TV”), sex issues with realism (in episode 1, “Plan B”), and the ever-pressing question that society pushes on 30-somethings like me, “am I a kid person?” (also from “Plan B”).

Plot: Aziz Ansari is an actor, making his way through auditions and life. The episodes tell a continuous story, but not in such a strict way that you need to necessarily watch them in order. A main theme is tackled in each episode, societal woes are solved, drinks are drank, dates are gone upon.

Each opening scene, accompanied by credits, is straight up cinematic; each episode title is teased in at the beginning with vintage font that gets you guessing where the episode is going to go; and the cameos don’t disappoint, either (Busta Rhymes, H. Jon Benjamin, Ansari’s parents, Orange is the New Black‘s Taystee?!). Some of the acting is not so great, but you have probably noticed that I love Da vid LynchHarmony Korrine, and mumblecore so…yeah, that doesn’t bother me so much.

04-master-of-none-1.w529.h352

Ansari as Dez, with on-again off-again love interest Rachel, played by Noël Wells Photo: K.C. Bailey/Netflix

Master of None definitely earned at least another hour of my attention simply by using Aphex Twins’s “Come to Daddy” in episode 1. And don’t stop episode 3 before the tititular track comes on- Beach House’s “Master of None.” And don’t you love it when you realize about a celebrity, “aww he’s just like me?” because thats kinda how I felt when Aziz refers to Mark Morrison’s hit 90’s classic, “Return of the Mack” by saying, “well, this is maybe the most amazing song that has ever been created. Would you be opposed to dancing?”

Master of None gets a solid A in my book so far. As far as I’m concerned, if you laugh out loud at least once an episode (and you are watching it by yourself) it is a clear winner. I couldn’t wait any longer to write a review because I hope that this can convince at least another person or two to watch it too.

Advertisements

Cult of Personality- The Source Family (2012)

13 Sep

SourceFamily_2000x2841_1shtWhat started as a lucrative, hip vegetarian restaurant in late-1960’s LA, led to a religious way of life for over one hundred followers in the 70’s. The Source Family documentary tells the tale of Ya Ho Wha, or Father Yod, and his transformation from a straight-laced and allegedly violent businessman to a polygamous cult leader. A unique perspective emerges as past followers are interviewed in present-day, with many seeing no harm in the crazy life they used to lead under this cult leader. What started out with seemingly reasonable life habits- healthy and organic eating, commitment to above all else do no harm, communal living and positive thinking- devolves into power-hunger, community backlash, withdrawal from society, and as Father Yod’s ex-wife, Robin, so aptly put it, “a dirty old man on a lust trip.”

And despite the obvious manipulation at play within the Source Family, it is incredible to see how former members still speak so highly of the cult and its missions- many retaining their cult-given names (Sunflower, Isis, Electricity, all with the last name Aquarian) even more than 40 years after the Family’s dissipation.

Oh the fashion!

Oh the fashion!

The incredibly raw, archival footage maintained by photographer, official Source Family member, and appointed documentarian, Isis Aquarian, gives a first-hand look into the ceremonies, rituals, daily life, and philosophies of this group. It is quite surprising that documentation was even allowed, considering how it doesn’t always cast the group or its leader in a positive light. There is also some unique insight into why exactly someone would fall for cult mentality, as well as the societal pushes and pulls in the climate of the 1960’s and 70’s family. Most notably, during a time in which fatherly love and warmth was not the customary order of the day (think Mad Men), followers with daddy issues flocked to Father Yod’s side for love and guidance.

Plus, they formed a pretty interesting psychedelic rock band, that for some reason was allowed to play California high schools during their heyday. Nowadays, their records are a coveted find for serious collectors.

Check out this far out trailer for the doc, man:

Wet Hot Double Feature- First Day of Camp and Hurricane of Fun (2015)

11 Aug

How excited were you when the makers of Wet Hot American Summer announced that they would be releasing a season-long prequel, adapted for television and available streaming in its entirety this summer? Were you this excited?

Image from consequenceofsound.net

Image from consequenceofsound.net

first-day-of-camp.0I was jumping for joy. When you have watched Wet Hot American Summer as many times as I have, after nearly fifteen years you really don’t expect a sequel on the horizon. And then it hits you, just like an ice cream headache in the middle of July. And yes, ice cream is quite delicious, but sadly, you can have too much of a good thing. So, my friends, if you have not yet watched the whole season as I have, I urge you to savor it. Savor it as you would a delicious sorbet. Because when it’s gone it’s gone, and this time I don’t think we can expect another installment fifteen years down the line.

I paradoxically feel proud and ashamed that I consumed the entire season of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp in one sitting on the Sunday after its release. Netflix has its evil way of sinking its claws right through you and into your lazy couch on your day off, taking the grunt work out of even pressing play for the next episode. I just let it play through, delighting in the familiar faces, fifteen years later, as they danced across the screen. I was ecstatic to see new, but similarly joy-producing cameos such as H Jon Benjamin, Jon Hamm, Jason Schwartzman, and Michaela Watkins as well. But now I just feel empty inside. I had too much of a good thing, and it just left me craving more.

282689-hurricane-of-fun-the-making-of-wet-hot-0-230-0-345-cropHow elated I was, then, this evening when we discovered Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot (2015) on Netflix this evening! This casual, behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the original movie was almost as delightful as the four hours I dedicated to the series last week. While I wish I could say that the show came as close to the movie as I would have hoped, this candid documentary of the original movie hit the nostalgia spot a little bit better. Everyone looks so fresh and young and little, and their sense of humor that carries off screen is so warm and relatable.  What I wouldn’t give to have been able to join the cast at their own Camp Firewood retreat as they filmed the movie back in 2000. I nearly shed a tear when Amy Poehler dances around one of their camp cabins during filming, lip synching to Le Tigre’s Deceptacon. Why can’t we just be friends in real life already??

Them Females is Strong as Hell- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)

30 Mar
Yaaaasss queen!

Yaaaasss queens!

When I first watched Broad City, it made me realize that up until that show, there was this big gap in television programming that I didn’t even notice before. I am still struggling for the words to explain what that gap actually is, but Broad City helped to fill it. Once I realized that television could be that wonderful, I also realized that it would probably be a long time before another show would even come close to the female-powered comedic majesty of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-600And then, lo an behold, came the Netflix series out of left field, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I will admit to have finished in a few days’ time, and have already started a second round. This show is catching onto the trend of naive Indiana girls trying to make it in the Big Apple (a lá Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23– which doesn’t hold a candle to Kimmy, but is still enjoyable). But Unbreakable has the added plot twist of Kimmy joining the real world after being locked away for 15 years in the underground bunker of a religious cult. Hard to picture, at first, quite how this can be spun into comedic gold, but trust me, it has been.

I have noticed many people have jumped aboard the Kimmy Schmidt train, albeit with reservations at first. I have read a lot of apprehension in people’s evaluations of the show, statements along the lines of, “I’m not entirely sure if I love this show, but I am binge-watching it just the same.” (Psst.. I think that means you might love it.) I think there is a part of every one of us that finds it easier to be wary of a show with a strong female cast and an underlying feminist message (more on that later). But watch a couple of episodes and believe me, you will be hooked. You might not even be annoyed by the opening title sequence, something that usually gets old real fast.

kimmy titus mrs voorhees

Titus Andromedon (Kimmy’s roommate), Jacqueline Voorhees (Kimmy’s boss), and Miss Kimmy Schmidt herself! (Along with robot Yuko)

You will like this show…

  • …if you liked 30 Rock. This is not just because Jane Krakowski (30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney) is one of the leading ladies of the show, or because all of the background music is identical to the jazzy ensembles played in 30 Rock, but more likely because Tina Fey is executive producer. And we all know that Tina Fey can do no wrong. (Same goes for Amy Poehler, obviously, who also produced Broad City. Are we seeing a pattern here?)
  • …if you liked The Office, as Ellie Kemper (Kimmy), also played Erin on that show. (In a Bust magazine interview with Kemper, we learn that “she parlayed what was originally a four-episode arc into a recurring character”).
  • …if you liked Strangers with Candy or Arrested Development, due to the show’s “invisible humor,” as this article in Esquire magazine so aptly put it. The meticulous attention to detail for subtle comedic gems is what has me immediately returning to re-watch the series.

Case in point: this show is intelligent, y’all. And it’s perhaps a clandestinely feminist as well, which is wonderful for those people who couldn’t handle a more direct feminist approach. Tina Fey’s comic wit with a feminist twist shines in subtle moments, such as Matt Lauer’s line in a scene in which the Indiana mole women (aka bunker cult prisoners) visit The Today Show: “I’m always amazed at what women will do because they’re afraid of being rude.” This was in direct response to one mole woman’s explanation that “one night, [Cult leader Wayne Gary Wayne] invited me out to his car to see some baby rabbits and I didn’t want to be rude…so… here we are.”

Troll the respawn, Jeremy. (That means goodbye).

Peeno Noir- an ode to black penis:

The Idiots Are Taking Over… The Revisionaries (2012)

1 Mar

If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention. Even if you are paying attention and you are pissed off, you may find yourself helpless to stop this bullet in progress.

Revisioonaries_poster_smallwave.inddI didn’t really know how Boards of Education worked until I saw Revisionaries (2012), the documentary about the Texas Board of Education and their attempts to undermine public education and textbook content in order to conform to theological and specifically Christian biblical beliefs. This doc mainly follows Don McLeroy, Creationist/Dentist who serves as chairman on the Texas State Board of Education. As you will see in the trailer, he wants to change practically everything in the world of science and social studies in public education, from ensuring that Barack Obama is always referred to including his middle name, Hussein, to removing the term “hip hop” and replacing it with “country” when referring to popular music.

Why should we care about what Texas does with their educational system, at least we who do not live in that reputably conservative state? Because Texas is the home of a great deal of our big textbook companies, the ones who write standards and curriculum for schools all over the country. What this little board decides for Texas often goes for the rest of us. Now, I don’t teach the subjects under attack in this doc, but as a Spanish teacher I can be easily affected by this conservative mindset. These are the same people who tout “Speak American!” and confuse Latin with Spanish, as many people showed in their ignorant displays of protest regarding a Vermont state motto here. I am clearly biased here, but I think foreign languages should be offered right along with math and science from the beginning, especially considering that studies show we learn language best in our formative years.

Although this movie makes my blood boil, I have to give it an A based on its importance of bringing to light an issue that affects us all.

Trailer for the film:

But He Was Such a Nice Guy… Jack Black Evokes My Sympathy for a Killer in Bernie (2011)

24 Feb
Bernie-Movie-4

Such a nice guy… Jack Black as Bernie Tiede

Last month I heard a story on NPR about convicted murderer Bernie Tiede, who continued to be loved by his entire community in Carthage, (East- very important!) Texas, even after he admitted to murdering an elderly widow and keeping her in a deep freezer in the garage for nine months. In the NPR story, they spent some time talking about Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy/mockumentary about the man, aptly titled Bernie. It’s the Best in Show of murder movies.

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The real Bernie Tiede (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Jack Black is absolutely amazing in this movie. He plays Tiede in such an endearing way, you can’t help but side with the many townspeople who also saw past Bernie’s horrific actions. As they put it, Marjorie Nugent, Tiede’s victim, was a total bitch. Shirley MacLaine, who portrays Nugent in the movie does a good job of letting us feel that she kind of had it coming. Whether that is true in real life is only truly known by Tiede himself, but I’m inclined to believe it. In addition to Black’s killer (ha!) performance, the vignettes of the townspeople, exhibited through mock interviews, are also just priceless.

Last year, Tiede’s attorney began to present new evidence in the case that alleges that Tiede was sexually abused as a child, and the emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of Nugent prior to her death drove him to a “dissociative episode,” which led him to kill her. I don’t want to ruin the surprise that is what became of Bernie Tiede and where he is today, so be sure to Google him only after you have seen this delightful movie.

I give it an A.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from the movie, about the differences between the regions of Texas.

And here is a great scene of Jack Black playing Bernie

“He Lives in a Horde of His Own Personal Peculiarities” Burt’s Buzz (2013)

22 Feb
Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt's Bees

Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt’s Bees

I’ve been using Burt’s Bees products for as long as I can remember, but until I saw the documentary Burt’s Buzz, I had no idea that Burt was a real person. This documentary takes an intimate look into Burt Shavitz’s life as the poster “boy” of Burt’s Bees products. He travels all over the world, passing out samples and meeting superfans (yep, he has those). He is just as rustic as the photo to the left suggests.

Some Burt's Bees superfans in Taiwan

Some Burt’s Bees superfans in Taiwan

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

Trevor Folsom is known as “The Majordomo,” aka Burt’s handler, who makes sure he gets his packing in order and to his appointments on time, but mostly he helps Burt with things around his house and in his life on a daily basis. He is the darling of the documentary, in my opinion; he made me laugh until I cried. Folsom’s deadpan sarcasm and obvious annoyance with the one man pony show that is Burt would put April Ludgate (Dwyer) to shame. In the first shot in which he faces the camera, interview style, he states, “Burt’s a very interesting guy that I spend every day with. And sometimes I wanna throttle him,” and later he delivers my favorite lines, “He lives in a horde of his own personal peculiarities…He does not have the range of conception that allows him to see what he has become…He’s like Colonel Sanders, and he simply does not understand that.”

I will always love documentaries about peculiar people. They are uplifting alternatives to the depressing docs I watch about climate change, religious extremists, and hegemonic US international policy-making. Burt’s Buzz is one of the best I have seen in some time, although there is a bit of a sad twist to his story as well.

My favorite scene from the doc at the end of the following video: https://thescene.com/watch/presents/burt-s-buzz-meet-burt-and-his-majordomo-trevor

I’m Gettin’ too Old for This Shit – Happy Christmas (2014)

18 Feb

I can be into Mumblecore movies, depending on my mood. Today was a snow day, a slow day, and an alone day, so I was

Mumblecore Poster Child Mark Duplass. (Not in the movie... but worth mentioning)

Mumblecore Poster Child Mark Duplass. (Not in the movie… but worth mentioning)

down for an onslaught of slow-moving plots that seem to go nowhere, meandering dialogue, and amateurish camera angles. Enter: Happy Christmas, a title that is one of the biggest misnomers I have come across in a movie. Sure, it takes place during Christmas time, but it’s more of an afterthought than a focal point. If anything, it is just there to add to the ambiance of a stagnant and frigid Chicago winter.

Lena Dunham fans rejoice, she makes several appearances in the movie as Jenny's friend Carson.

Lena Dunham fans rejoice, she makes several appearances in the movie as Jenny’s friend Carson.

Jenny (Anna Kendrick) has just broken up with her boyfriend, and has decided to start over again in Chicago. She has returned to live with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their baby while she looks for her own apartment. Jeff and Kelly set Jenny up in their tiki-themed bar basement while she relives the reality of living with a parent once again, complete with adolescent behaviors such as coming home wasted in the middle of the night, passing out drunk while a frozen pizza burns in the oven, and sneaking bowls downstairs while online shopping for Christmas presents.

Hangover city in the tiki basement

Hangover city in the tiki basement

One thing I like about this movie is that Jenny never wallows in the breakup that she left behind, and she doesn’t spend half of the movie complaining about the ups and downs of relationships. She’s just 27 years old, a bit directionless, and in a strange limbo between post-college and post-post-college, that awkward time when society takes a look at you, one foot tapping, saying, “you are really supposed to have your shit together by now,” but you don’t. This is why the film is so relatable to me. I barely have my shit together now, but at 27 I was really at a crossroads of the social discomfort and hangovers that I was supposed to have grown out of by then.

Carson and Jenny and Baby Jude

Carson and Jenny and Baby Jude

Full of discursive and improvisational dialogue, this movie shows people being people and having conversations in an unscripted way that I usually like. It feels a little overdone at times, but I appreciate a movie that captures realistic human interaction just as much as I enjoy beautifully prosaic scripts handcrafted by a room full of professional writers. It is exactly this kind of movie that I become more and more uncomfortable viewing in the company of others, for whatever reason. So many people want movies to have a point, a big and obvious breakthrough or resolution. Happy Christmas doesn’t really have one of those big messages at the end, but it’s relatable, and I really like that about this movie.

So if you ever felt a little lost and irresponsible while in your mid- to late-20’s; if you have found yourself a part of the boomerang generation that moves back in with family members or at least back to some semblance of the “home” from whence you once came; if you have ever woken up at noon, hungover, and thinking to yourself, “I’m getting too old for this shit;” and if you don’t mind reliving all of these uncomfortable moments just once more, you will like Happy Christmas, in spite of its hideous title.

Grade: B.

One Last Round with Phillip Seymour Hoffman – The Master (2012)

13 Sep

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died in February of a heroin overdose, I was crushed. I’ve always treated celebrity deaths as sort of a joke. This is probably not the first time I have mentioned my Celebrity Death Poll in which friends and I would each list 3 celebrities we thought may die soon- yes I’m aware I’m going to hell for this. Upon hearing of PSH’s death, however, I felt like I got hit by a ton of bricks. It’s the only time I cried when someone famous died. And…I have to admit… (cue Unpopular Opinion Puffin): puffin robin williamsPhilip-Seymour-Hoffman-1000-x-1000-1Now that we got that out of the way, let’s return to the original intention of this post. Paul Thomas Anderson, director of such films as Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, and Boogie Nights, recently brought us a new film, The Master (2012). Considering it is by one of my top 5 favorite directors, and it stars my dear Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the leader of a 1950’s cult (which is perhaps a nudge to Scientology), I don’t know what kept me from watching it.

the_master_turkish_poster_color_highTo be honest, it wasn’t my favorite PT Anderson or PSH film. Maybe it’s because I don’t like Joaquin Phoenix that much, and he’s pretty much the centerpiece of the movie. As an actor, I suppose he did fantastically in portraying the unhinged and out-of-control character, Freddie. I read this article in the New Yorker  by Richard Brody about the genius of the film and the way that the acting mirrors the way people talked, walked, and acted in the 1950’s, but I guess it just takes something different to impress me.

I think I had postponed watching The Master until my mourning for PSH subsided, and I thought it would serve as one last, perfectly preserved, piece of his cinema to enjoy, as I don’t see any posthumous work of his coming out. In the end, I was disappointed. As usual, my mark of a good film is whether I would like to see it again. I bought Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood, so that I could watch them over and over again. Unfortunately, The Master won’t be joining that collection. At least the movie has a great score, done by Jonny Greenwood.

Shows to Watch Online While You Slowly Freeze to Death

13 Feb

Hey guys! Thanks for stopping by my second snowpocalypse edition of Media to Put in your Eye Holes While You’re Snowed In. If you’re like me, you have fashioned a sort of nest of blankets, pillows, scarfs and hoodies; you have invited your canine companion onto your couch; and you are taking full advantage of the way the South does winter, y’all. Though in all reality, I have been slaving away at a Spanish paper on contemporary poetry and its imagery, and I could really use the catharsis of writing in English about some garbage. So let’s hop to it!

I have recently gained access to Amazon Prime Instant Video via super secret spy methods involving hidden cameras in Sochi showers. And boy have I been taking advantage of this quality programming:

1. The Layover w/ Anthony Bourdain (Amazon Prime)

tony with a bone

Used to be the background on my computer

I love every single thing about Anthony Bourdain and I will follow him to the end of the earth in whatever pursuit he may choose. So how did I fail to notice that he had a new show? For all I know, it has been cancelled by now. But if it’s as new to you as it is to me, you can catch the entire first season (series?) on Amazon Prime. The premise here is not much unlike his No Reservations series, only this time he is in each city for a very limited time (like 24 hours). He schleps around with some fellow-cook friends, and tries out local foods and activities. So enjoy another series where you watch the episodes of the places that you have been to first so you can revel in the fact that Tony has been there, too.

2. Alpha House (Amazon Prime)

I love John Goodman and I already feel bad enough for betting on him to be the next  to die in my high school celebrity death poll. In Alpha House, he acts as the ex-NC-basketball-coach-turned-politician that you could learn to love. Also must be taking some of his character acting tips from his part in Todd Solondz’s Storytelling.

Workaholics-blake-anderson-adam-devine-anders-holm-600x4603. Workaholics (Amazon Prime)

The fine folks at Netflix took it away, but you can still get your share of Ders, Blake, and Adam (and don’t forget Jillian!) on Amazon Prime. Fantastic mindless comedic viewing to zone out and burn to (IF you live in Colorado or Washington ONLY!)

4. Inside Amy Schumer (Amazon Prime) inside-amy-schumer2

I am always happy to see a righteous chick catch a little spotlight in the world of standup and sketch comedy. She is just as crass as I often feel, so this show makes me happy to feel that I am not alone. Even you dudes will like it, seriously.

5. Key and Peele (Amazon Prime)

If the online stylings of such videos as “Substitute Teacher” tickled your fancy, how do you feel about a full show of Key and Peele antics? Sketch comedy at it’s finest, and I love any show that can tackle race, (albeit no one has come forward with the fire that is Dave Chapelle, but I’m holding out).

6. David Chang: Mind of a Chef (Netflix)mind-of-a-chef-pbs-anthony-bourdain

Did I mention I love Anthony Bourdain? He narrates this show, for some reason, which is what drew me to it in the first place. I must admit, I kind of hate the way the show is organized. In one episode, David Chang, famous chef of Momofuku, will be in various countries speaking with famous chefs about, say, the egg. In the next episode, he will be at several of the same international places, but this time discussing the merits of freeze-dried foods. But all-in-all, it’s a good show that will make you hungry. The icing on the cake was the day I watched an episode in which David Chang goes golfing with Dan the Automator. Go figure!

louis-ck7. Louie (Netflix)

Louis CK is, hands down, my favorite standup comedian. And I love him as much for his masturbation jokes as the bigol’ thinkin’ brain those jokes come out of. Those who only like him for his crass antics, however, beware. The show that he writes, produces, edits, and stars in, is a little bit more off the beaten path. He tackles some intense issues regarding mental health, fatherhood, community, work, life, everything. But it’s not as heartwarming as that sounds, either, it can get quite twisted.

8. Twin Peaks (Netflix)Twin-peaks

While the ending leaves much to be desired, it is still worth getting into this cult David Lynch classic. Pretty much a prerequisite to being my BFF, Twin Peaks has quirk and style and mystery and a certain man in a denim outfit who haunts my waking and sleeping nightmares. If you have been watching True Detective on HBO (see #9), I prescribe you this show to watch while you’re biting your nails between episodes. The owls are not what they seem, and you can always get an, excuse me, DAMN fine cup of coffee in Twin Peaks.

true detective9. True Detective (HBO, hbogo.com)

True Detective reminds me a bit of Twin Peaks, maybe mixed with Breaking Bad. That’s really enough for me. A mysterious cultish murder rocks a small Lousiana town, and who do we have around to solve it? An emaciated Matthew McConaughey and a machista Woody Harrelson (whose character I loathe more than any other of his). It’s just getting really juicy, and watching this on hbogo.com makes me remember what it’s like to have to wait for the next episode of a show again.

10. Girls (HBO, hbogo.com)Girls-HBO-image-girls-hbo-36197318-647-960

Duh. I love it, I love Lena Dunham and in my dreams we are best friends. Watching this show is how we catch up. As buds.