My Week of Relaxation Is Over...& Movie Roundup

This last week has been fun. The semester is finally over and I did pretty well. Had a nice visit with my folks last weekend and have been taking it easy this last week.

We went to the Hogle Zoo and did some shopping in Salt Lake (Candace already covered it over here), I worked quite a bit and rested a lot. I'm still trying to shake the feeling that there's some project I should be working on (there isn't), but other than that, I've had a great week.

We've been getting slowly addicted to CleanFlix, a service where they edit the sex and language out of films so they're "safe," or family viewing. Basically, it's an easy way for us to see all of the R-rated movies we've been wanting to see without breaking our streak or seeing/hearing something we don't want or need to hear/see. Personally, I think it's brilliant. So far we've seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (just phenomenal, seriously, I'm in love with this movie) and Garden State (mmmm, I really wanted to love it to bits, but it just doesn't sustain itself through its duration, kind of fizzles out somewhere in the last act).

I was worried it'd be really hokey, like the time I saw the edited version of Pulp Fiction on channel 21 or 33 back in the day. Does anybody else remember how hilarious that was? Anyway, with Eternal Sunshine, it was hard to tell if the edits were going to be awkward because, well the edits are awkward in the film, so Garden State was the litmus test, and it seemed to work alright. Nothing stood out or took you out of the experience, so, yeah, I'm hooked. The short list for upcoming movies (I seriously have been compiling a list in my head of R-rated movies I'd like to see if I ever decided to "go back" to watching them - knowing full well that that probably was never going to happen) looks like: the Squid and the Whale, I [heart] Huckabees, Broken Flowers (I'm a sucker for Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch, what can I say?), Match Point (I'm a sucker for Woody as well), and I kind of want to see Amelie and Donnie Darko, though I'm not sure if they stock the latter - we'll see.

As long as we're talking movies, I guess I'll do a Netflix Roundup. Starting with the least to most recent, we have:

The Work of Director Spike Jonze - Pretty cool stuff. This music video collection hits all the, uh, "hits,": Chris Walken's mind-blowing dancing in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice," and the hilarity of "Praise You," the still genius but over-played "Sabotage," Bjork's show-stopping and celebratory "It's Oh So Quiet," Weezer's "Buddy Holly," and "Undone (the Sweater Song)," (the latter of which I still think is a dumb video, but it's well-known), and the Breeder's "Cannonball." There are some clunkers here, as well: the Bad Boy rap videos, the Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot," the aforementioned Weezer video; all of which are so bland that they could have been directed by anybody. Daft Punk's "Da Funk" is an interesting idea that just falls flat, as is Dinosaur Jr.'s "Feel the Pain." This video was more interesting fo me for the videos I hadn't seen or forgotten I'd seen, namely the Pharcyde's "Drop," the Chemical Borthers "Elektrobank," and the positively genius "What's Up Fatlip?" from the Pharcyde's Fatlip. When he's on, Jonze is electric, reminding you that music videos can be more than commercials, more than style experiments or cheap camera tricks - they can be miniature works of art that compliment and elevate the accompanying score. This should be required viewing for anyone interested in working in the usually soulless abyss of music videos. I'd give it an A-.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Didn't watch it because the disc was skipped pretty badly, and it was pan-and-scan, and it was a terrible reproduction. For a film regarded as a "classic," on the cover, this is a poor product to be putting out.

Guided by Voices: Watch Me Jumpstart - Not as interesting as I'd like it to be, this documentary was shot sometime in the mid-90's, featuring the "classic lineup" of the band. Had this been 1998 and had I not just read Jim Greer's Hunting Accidents, which covers a lot of the same ground as this documentary and then some, I might have been a bit more impressed. Still, the mythology of the band is presented: Bob Pollard used to teach elementary school, he writes songs like other people replace skin cells, he records said songs in his basement with his buddies, he's a bit of an egotistical jerk and he likes beer. The live performances are decent, especially the more recent one from Poland I think. The music videos included are, well, terrible (notable exception being the "Glad Girls," video which is the bee's knees, and a kicking song to boot) and the doc itself suffers from art-student-itis, with faux-arty interludes that overstay their welcome. Not the definitive story of the band, but a decent primer. Grade: B-

Sliding Doors - Oh my goodness, a romantic drama set in Hypertime! (Non-comic-book nerds beware, but an expllaination can be found here.) A decent little movie, but nothing to get all worked up about. Paltrow is good and the Scottish guy who plays her love interest is great as well.

Just Friends - In which nobody acts like a normal human being, let alone exudes qualities or personalities that are remotely likeable, but is entertaining even though it falls apart if you look at it sideways. There's some part of me that wants to like Ryan Reynolds, but I don't know if I can get past the smarm! He is smarm made flesh. In this role, it works, though, as I mentioned earlier, he's supposed to be the sympathetic character but is, in actuality, a jerk. Grade: C+

Star Wars: Clone Wars: Vol. 1 - Bryan got me Vol. 2 for Christmas, but I waited to watch them both together. Vol. 1 is the better of the two, mainly because the five-minute episodes allow for fightin' and fightin' only. Seriously, if I want drama and exposition or story, any of that crap, I'll rent some girly movie like Braveheart. For a Star Wars cartoon, I wants me some fightin', and both volumes deliver plenty of that, though the first volume delivered it in greater quantities. Grade (for both): B+

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - A fun little film. Liked the casting, especially Sam Rockwell as Zaphod and Martin Freeman (from the UK version of the Office) as Arthur. The motion pieces that pop up from time-to-time are cool as are the muppets from teh Henson workshop. Clever, witty and ridiculous, just like the source material. Grade: B+

In the Mood for Love - I already gushed about this film here, but it's an A+ all the way.

Good Night, and Good Luck - Another great movie. Well-shot, -scripted, -acted and -paced. Well done. Grade: A

Super Furry Animals: Rings Around the World - Wow, this was a disappointment. The idea is to take the excellent SFA album and pair it with interesting visuals. Well, it was a great idea, but a terrible execution. An overwhelming majority of the pieces are either poorly-made or have nothing to do with the song. The only pieces that really were worth watching were the "Juxtapozed With U," piece and Pete Fowler's (crappily animated) piece for the track that escapes me just now. I'd like to say I enjoyed it, but in the end, it was a letdown. Grade: C-

The Apartment - Wow. This blew me away. Smart, sad and beautiful, this is Billy wilder at the top of his game. The cinematography is excellent, the writing snappy and the acting spotless. Grade: A

The Legend of Zorro - I saw the first Zorro movie on TV a while back, having blown it off as a stupid popcorn movie (which it is, it's just a smart stupid popcorn movie) and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Plus, I will admit that I kind of think that Antonio Banderas is cool. The sequel continues in the same vein as the original, as it is still dumb fun, but it's a little too all-ages and stretches its plausability a bit too thin. A little less dumb and a little more fun and it would have been killer, but still, not that horrible. Grade: B.

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