Category: comedy

Obscure Netflix Movie Recommendation: The Quartet

Downton Abbey is done with for the year, but that doesn’t mean you have to be done with Downton. Especially not Maggie Smith, because who would want to be done with her? Denisa and I had a chance to catch The Quartet on streaming the other day, and I was happy to see Netflix’s recommendation engine came through for me once again. It said I would give this film 5/5, and it was pretty spot on–it’s a 9/10 for me.

The film focuses on a retirement home for musicians (because they have a lot of those in England, maybe?) Four once-famous singers end up there together, and old age drama and hi-jinx ensue. It’s not really a drama, and not a straight up comedy either. It falls somewhere in the middle. Will it be perfect for everyone? Probably not. The pacing isn’t perfect, and it’s a tad predictable. (Also, note that it has two f-bombs in it, though both are very easy to mute through. (Hint: each time a character says, “I’m about to say something very rude,” hit mute for two seconds. Problem solved!))

So if it had some issues, why did I like it so much? For a variety of reasons. First off, I really enjoyed the acting and the soundtrack. Some great classical music, and it was  fun to see all these retired musicians getting to live it up a bit. (Outside the stars, the rest of the cast is made up of actual real musicians–very nice!) As for the stars, in movie like this, you can typically either pick great musicians and try to get them to act well, or great actors and try to get them to play or sing somewhat passably. This film went the third route: great actors and have them not try to sing or play at all. It makes for a bit of a different climax, but I think the movie pulled it off.

So if you’re looking for something that’s a shade quirky, music-focused, with great acting and some beautiful scenery, then look no further. (And beside the two swears, it’s pretty squeaky clean to boot.)

Anyone else out there seen it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Quirky Movie Recommendation of the Week: Dean Spanley

Do you ever get tired of the same old movies, week after week? I don’t mean the same films. Rather, the same types. Boy meets girl. Buddy cop. Whodunnit. Biopic. After a while, they all start to blend together, don’t they? There are too many times that I have to admit I’ve seen a movie but can’t really remember what I thought about it. It’s gotten all mixed up with all the other movies in my head.

So it’s rare to find a movie that sticks out from the rest of the crowd. That’s truly different. Not in an artsy sort of way–it’s still intended for a wide audience. It’s just, the subject matter is so strange that you’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

Which brings us to my recommendation to you for movie watching this weekend. Dean Spanley. It’s on Netflix right this moment. It’s the sort of movie I would probably never have watched in a million years without Netflix. But the algorithm said I’d give it 5 stars, and I was in the mood for a 5 star sort of a film. (Sick all week, tired of being stuck in the house in bed, but not better yet.) I tend to trust that algorithm a fair bit, now that I’ve rated 2,231 movies through it. (Man–that’s getting up there? Anyone else want to let me know how many they’ve rated for comparison?)

What did I know about the film heading into it? Exactly what I’m going to tell you now: it’s about a man who goes with his father to hear a talk on reincarnation. And it’s a quirky comedy.

I don’t want to say much more than that, though there’s a lot I’d like to add. I just don’t want to risk spoiling anything about the movie for any of you who watch it. But here’s the deal–once you have watched it, please come back to leave a comment here or on Facebook. I’m really curious what other people will think about the movie. I know I can sometimes like movies a lot that other people find bizarre, and I’d love to chat with a few people about the movie.

I gave it 9/10 stars. It was thought provoking and interesting, though a tad slow in a few parts. It’s got a very nice performance by Peter O’Toole. Will you like it? Give it a shot and see. If you’re looking for quirky and different, drama and comedy, feel good and not too fast paced, you really can’t go wrong.

Plus, it was made by the UK and New Zealand. And I think we all know their track record when it comes to making movies.

Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Let’s get one thing out in the open right away: I’m a Wes Anderson fan. Tenenbaums? Moonrise Kingdom? Mr. Fox? I love the look and style of his movies. How well each frame is arranged and thought through. So the fact that I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel shouldn’t really surprise anyone. But there’s one other thing to get out in the open quickly, as well: Anderson movies, while lovely and fun and interesting and artistic and thought provoking, also often have some content in them that will offend some. They’re often rated R. Not for pervasive sexuality or non-stop swearing. This isn’t Boogie Nights or Goodfellas, people. But there’ll be random scenes or shots that will shock you in a moment and then they’re gone. Do I personally wish he’d tone it back a bit? Yes. I think he could still do exactly what he does without having the occasional swear word or sex image.

But he obviously feels differently, and that’s his right.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let me say why I loved the Grand Budapest so much. It’s a heist movie, people. A Wes Anderson heist movie. Take a favorite director, add a favorite genre, and it’s a total Christmas gift to me. Ralph Fiennes plays a concierge of the titular hotel, and when one of his patrons passes away, he ends up stealing an invaluable piece of art. Sort of. It’s complicated, like any other Anderson movie. And I also don’t want to give too much away.

The film has a lovely Eastern European flair (and I discovered after the fact that the bulk of it was filmed where I served my mission in Germany–Gorlitz, in case you were wondering. Can the movie get any better for me?). The settings are perfect, the buildings are gorgeous–such a well put together movie. The acting is also spot on, with a great performance by Fiennes, and notable roles for Willem Defoe, Adrian Brody, Bill Murray (though not enough–more of a cameo than anything), Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Saorise Ronan, Edward Nortan, and Tilda Swinton.

Great acting, great directing–what else do you need? Great writing. And the movie has that in spades, as well. Fascinating dialogue and narration, little in-jokes sprinkled throughout to keep even the slow parts entertaining.

Honestly, I wish I could unreservedly recommend this movie to everyone. I know so many people who would adore it, but who I don’t feel like I can encourage them to see it, and all for about 15 seconds total of the 100 minute movie. If it were only 15 seconds all at once, 0r 15 seconds that I could describe where not to look, but it isn’t. It’s flashes and images splashed up 7 or 8 times through the movie, and they’re shocking enough to stop me from making that unreserved recommendation.

Still, if you’re not put off by that warning, or you can somehow find an edited version of this at some point, this really isn’t a movie you want to miss at all. 9/10 from yours truly.

Anyone else seen it? What did you think?

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to like Ben Stiller’s remake of the Danny Kaye classic. Danny Kaye is awesome. What was Zoolander doing screwing around with good movies? (I like Zoolander a fair bit, but it’s a far cry from Danny Kaye.) Still, it was a remake of a movie I really enjoyed, and sometimes you can’t resist a good train wreck, so when I had the chance to see the film, my hesitations weren’t enough to keep me from watching it.

And at first, I was only looking for reasons to dislike it.

That’s a really hard spot for a movie to dig itself out of. When your audience is primed to find fault, then it’s almost always an easy enough task to give them what they’re looking for. With that as a prelude . . .

I really enjoyed this movie. 7/10 stars. Is it the best movie EVAR? No. But it’s very solid family-friendly entertainment that keeps you laughing and shows you plenty of very well shot visuals. The story fits together quite well, and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Part of this is due to the fact that, as with the original, they took the core of Thurber’s short story (about a daydreaming everyman) and added to it. With Kaye, they added a spy story. With Zoolander (I suppose I ought to start calling him Stiller), they inserted the character into the role of a romantic comedy. Stiller works for LIFE Magazine, and he’s about to be laid off. He has to find a famous photographer to potentially save his job. (That’s a clumsy overview, but it’ll work for now.)

So they didn’t really just copy the original movie. They did something different with it. That’s a great sign of a hopefully successful adaptation right there. Still, it appears that my opinion of the film isn’t one shared by most reviewers. (It’s got a 54/100 on Metacritic, for example.) I liked it for its good clean fun, for the way the daydreams foreshadow the action of the movie. Yes, it’s a film with a Message, and at times they hammer that Message a bit too hard, but I can’t really fault it for it. In many ways, it’s a movie that matches its main character more because of that Message. (And that’s all the M’s I’ll use for a while. Sorry about that.)

Anyway. It’s worth a watch, if you’ve been avoiding it. Perhaps I went lighter on it because I was expecting Awful. Then again, it’s got a 7.4 on IMDB, so clearly I’m not the only one who enjoyed it. Anyone else out there seen it? What did you think?

Watching the Classics with Your Kids: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

It’s never too soon to make sure your children are brought up with an appreciation for the finer things in life. You can keep your Citizen Kanes and your hoity toity artsy films. I’m talking about the really important stuff.

Stuff like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

The sad thing is, there’s probably a fair number of people out there who have never seen this movie. It came out in 1989, which means it came out 6 or 7 years before any of the incoming freshmen at my university were born. And the thought of going through life without knowing the most excellent nature of this fine feature film is something too bogus and heinous for this movie fan to want to consider.

Any movie that can have this much fun with time travel, history, and idiot lead actors simply demands attention. Plus: Keanu Reeves.


If you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a quick overview: two boneheads travel through time to kidnap famous people so that they’ll help them in their end of the year history oral report. The movie is just as fun to watch now as it was when I first saw it. My kids had a great time from start to finish. Yes, there was a bit of innuendo in the movie, but it sails right past them, and there’s not much to speak of.

What are the parts they enjoyed the most? The mall scene was a favorite. The montage of stealing historical figures was a big hit. And any time there was anything approaching potty humor, of course.

There’s talk of a third movie finally being filmed, and that pleases me to no end. It might end up being lousy, but it certainly deserves a shot.

In any case, it was a fun way to spend an evening. I have no idea what it is about this movie that still provides me with so much entertainment. It’s counterintuitive, I know. Some of it has to be that I grew up with it. But I really think it’s a well done flick, right down to the time travel shenanigans at the climax. It’s not often you get a movie this “out there” that’s willing to just keep going out there and not let up.

In any case, be excellent to each other, peoples. And party on, dudes!

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