Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

Teacher of The Year

Amazon tempted me into this one with the promise of some pretty funny dudes: Keegan-Michael Key, and the Sklar Brothers, who I didn’t even know acted. Turns out, they don’t. But they do do their stand-up act in front of a camera in “character” as a couple of funny brothers. Actually they play high school counselors – their job is to help kids get into college and they are spectacularly bad at it. Keegan-Michael Key teacher-of-the-year-movieplays the principal and he’s pretty darn at that too. But Matt Letscher plays the titular “Teacher of the Year” and though his character has the bonafide ribbon, you kind of have to take their word for it that he’s good at his job. Although we see quite a lot of him in the classroom, he rarely seems to be more than competent, and sometimes quite a bit less. Even so, this Teacher of the Year is being lured out of teacher. And if this is the best they have, they cannot afford to lose him. The rest of the school seems to be populated by teachers who are either oblivious or crazy with jealousy. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Anyway, as I should have guessed from a movie that’s hired stand-up comedians rather than actors, it’s hella-funny in some very small, contained parts, and mostly not at all funny in all the others. It’s sort of a mockumentary and sort of just a failed movie.

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Paul

There’s just something right to me about a Nick Frost – Simon Pegg pairing. And this movie celebrates their inherent dweebitude. Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are just a couple of nerds visiting the U.S. for comic con and then an alien-themed road trip, you know, Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico, all those popular conspiracy theorist tourist traps. Only this road trip just happens to bring them a real alien, and his name is Paul (voiced\motion captured by Seth Rogen).

MV5BMTQxODA4NDc2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQzMDQ2NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_.jpgPaul crash-landed here decades ago and has put up amiably with interrogation and testing, but he’s making his escape now that the only thing left is to slice and dice him. Is the government simply going to let him get away? Of course not. Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio are all hot on his tail (he doesn’t have a tail). Graeme and Clive have an RV and a religious one-eyed woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and that’s about it: not ideal fleeing-the-government provisions, but it’ll have to do.

Paul is a love letter to science fiction fans. Pegg and Frost made the film’s pilgrimage in real life, and based the script on some of their odd encounters. The idea first came to them on a rainy night on the set of Shaun of the Dead, where they quickly sketched the character. Cameos and references to pop (science) fiction abound – how many can you spot? Paul is a real tribute to the genre but also just genuinely funny, even for those of us without an intrinsic love of extraterrestrials. This isn’t an excellent movie, but it’s a good enough movie, and frankly, it’s funnier than anything presently in theatres.

Seed

AngelHack, pioneer of global hackathons, is a female-owned, female-majority company that’s the world’s biggest, most diverse collective of hackers and developers. They’re driving innovation and tech products faster than you can blink an eye. This documentary follows their Silicon Valley Week, in which they invite the top 1% of hackers with an entrepreneurial spirit to come prepare their pitch and get launch-ready before Annual Global Demo Day.

E28A3520Seed follows three teams in particular: one, a couple of high school kids with a bright idea involving sneakers; another, a group from Nairobi who’ve developed a garbage-reporting ap; and the third a couple of guys from Palestine who are using the uber model to provide a parcel delivery service for small businesses.

It’s really cool to see industry leaders take time out to mentor these aspiring entrepreneurs. Their pitches are honed, designs streamlined, products tested. And how cool to peek behind the mysterious Silicon Valley curtain and see everything a young company goes through before those big breakthroughs, or more likely, first failures. Start-ups don’t come from nowhere: Seed shows us where the ideas germinate, and how they’re nurtured. And AngelHack is where it’s at: by “creating code and making change” they’ve actually supported over 150 start-ups. Their clients include IBM, BlackBerry, Hasbro, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which helped fund the film.

E28A6097I love documentaries because they let me understand a slice of the world that was previously closed to me. And when I tell you that I literally had to Google how to get a tab in Chrome to pop out into a new window while watching this movie, you’ll understand how removed I am from this world of hackers who live mysteriously inside my phone (do they?).

Director Andrew Wonder (ironically, given the material, using rare film lenses from the 1930s to capture a unique cinematic feel) gives us a good sense of the urgency, the stress, the nail biting, and the hopefulness of this event. It’s a pressure cooker. And as the documentary exposes, though only one ap will win, there’s more than one way to make winners AND losers of the competitors.

Seed is streaming on Amazon Prime.