Tag Archives: Netflix and chill

Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

Peak 1990s Michael Bolton was a cheesy, long haired dude who belonged in my mother’s cheesy CD collection, not mine. He was “adult contemporary” in the worst way imaginable. But then he cut off his mane and hooked up with Lonely Planet. The result?

 

Wait a minute: Michael Bolton has a sense of humour about himself? Indeed he does. And if you thought the above three minutes were worth a hoot, then you should definitely check out his Valentine’s special on Netflix because it’s a whole hour worth of laughs. If you’re anything like me and can’t handle sappy movies without copious eye rolls and squirms, and you think the softcore porn of Fifty Shades of Whatever is just plain undignified, finally we’ve got something you and your hunny can curl up to.  Laughter makes couples stronger – trust me, it’s science.

But you certainly don’t need to be a couple to enjoy this as its basic function is to poke fun michaelboltonsbigsexyvalentinesdayspecial_2at the whole romantic notion anyway. The premise, which is a generous way to describe it, is this: Santa needs an extra 75k babies to deliver presents to by next Christmas, so Michael Bolton agrees to host a sexy telethon to inspire love\baby making. Answering the phones of this telethon include seldom-thought of celebrities such as Brooke Shields, Sinbad, and Janeane Garofalo. But that’s hardly the limit as far as celebrity cameos go. Bolton is helped by the likes of Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, and very briefly, his best friend Adam Scott. Plus about 2 dozen more.

Bottom line, it’s stupid. It’s quite stupid. It was the kind of stupid I enjoyed because it’s skeweringly silly, raunchy, sparkling with tongue-in-cheek homages. It’s quite reminiscent of the Bill Murray Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas. And the truth is, Michael Bolton still sounds good. So on the rare occasion when he actually does sing, it’s perfectly pleasing. But it’s never, ever with a straight face. And that’s what makes it stupidly glorious.

 

[It also begs the question: what’s next? Murray got Christmas, Bolton got Valentine’s…who would you like to see tackle a holiday?]

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Mystery Team

The Mystery Team was a trio of childhood friends who biked around their neighbourhood to find mysteries to solve – a missing diary, a marble down a drain, a windowsill pie tampering. They communicated via walkie talkie and charged their clients just a dime. The Mystery Team is in fact still the same trio, only now they’re high school seniors and if they have no idea how creepy and childish and inappropriate their behaviour has become, everyone else certainly does.

mysteryteam2_lgThey manage to still get clients though, usually referred by Jamie (Ellie Kemper) but a new family on the block leads to their first ‘adult’ case – a double homicide with a side of stolen jewels. Again, everyone else knows that Jason (Donald Glover) aka The Master of Disguise, Duncan (D.C. Pierson) aka The Boy Genius, and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) aka The Strongest Kid in the Neighbourhood are in way over their heads, but they’re gung-ho – especially Jason, who might feel his first ‘adult’ stirrings for the new girl next door (Aubrey Plaza).

Is this a good movie? Bottom line: no. There’s definitely humour in just how pathetic these guys are, how clueless, and in some ways, how sweet. But it’s really the only fish in the barrel, so they stretch it out of necessity, and it inevitably wears quite thin. They bumble around foolishly, stumbling upon clues apparently faster than the cops due. Suspicious? About as suspicious as a stripper’s cesarean scar, and yes, that will come up.

I suppose if you have some sort of Scooby Doo fetish, this might be up your alley (sorry, no dog). I enjoy Donald Glover (no relation to Danny) so I tolerated this. I’m not sure that everyone will be able to say the same, and I wouldn’t blame them for a second if they couldn’t.

Take The 10

Chester is having quite a day. He’s finally found a buyer for his “vintage” 1997 Toyota Corolla which means he can take off for greener pastures in Brazil, leave behind his lame Whole(some) Foods job, and all that learning Portuguese won’t have been for nothing. His drug dealing best friend Chris is a little less excited about Brazil. He just wants to go to some concert, to which he can’t stop scalping tickets. But wait, you know there’s going to be a hitch: the Corolla buyer turns out to be in the market for a free drive-by and that puts Chester (Tony Revolori) in a very awkward position. Chris (Josh Peck) keeps making things worse, of course, and things were already pretty bad.

I have such positive feelings for Revolori from The Grand Budapest Hotel that I want to like this take-the-10-770x353movie immediately, and for a while, I do. But this Chris guy just keeps getting into such dumb situations and I suppose his character is less sympathetic so I’m just annoyed. My tolerance for dumb shit is not as high as is required to enjoy this movie. I may have laughed a couple of times but mostly I just thought things like: I wonder if any aps on my phone need updating? and Is this the perfect time to finally hook up all my single socks? and Holy mother of pearl, why are there still 20 agonizing minutes left?

So I guess that means I don’t recommend it. You know, unless you’re feeling super mellow and time-wastey and prone to generous laughter. Writer-director Chester Tam believes he is creating some unconventional characters, but he’s really only got caricatures with no depth or development. It’s a buddy-hijinks comedy that reminded me a bit of Go but only suffered from that comparison. It’s new on Netflix, but it’s barely worth the energy it takes to scroll past.

 

Mr. Pig

Ambrose’s farm is failing. He and his daughter are estranged. He doesn’t have anywhere else to be, so he and his friend Howard take a road trip down to Mexico. We get some solid, buddy-road-trip stuff out of Ambrose and Howard: questionable roadside food cards, cold beers, 000070-26554-16618_mrpig_still1_dannyglover__bydamingarca_-_h_2016reminiscences. It’s only a little wonky that Howard is Ambrose’s prized pig.

Howard is the last of a hallowed pig lineage, and Ambrose (Danny Glover) is making this illegal road trip to drop him off where he’ll be treasured and treated right, with the son of his old partner. It doesn’t hurt that the son is willing to pay what only Ambrose thinks Howard is worth. But when the incredibly porcine duo arrive, Ambrose finds his old partner’s farm to be thoroughly modernized, and that’s no compliment. It’s a factory farm that treats live animals like end products, so of course Ambrose balks. The deal is off: he and Howard hit the road once again.

This is when Ambrose’s very concerned daughter Eunice (Maya Rudolph) appears on the scene, but she cannot simply drive Ambrose and Howard back home because US customs just won’t allow it (well duh, they make you throw out orange slices for the love of god). So now it’s a father-mr-pig-moviedaughter-hog road trip movie, only there won’t be any touching redemption in this minivan. Ambrose just isn’t the type.

Mr. Pig wallows. It’s slow going. Diego Luna directs, and he’s got a fine eye for the beauty of Mexico, I’ll give him that. We see a side of it that we don’t usually glimpse in movies, the less cliched part of Mexico. The character study, however, is extremely low key. Too low key, you might be forgiven for thinking. Both Glover and Rudolph do their damnedest, but there’s just not enough bacon to go around.

 

Genius

 

A crazy man insisting he’s a genius wanders into Max’s office. He’s ranting, he’s raving, he doesn’t know that Max (Colin Firth) is already under his spell, has already been reading his manuscript, enthralled. And when Tom (Jude Law) learns that Max is on board, he can’t quite believe it – no other publisher has found his work worthwhile. Max is the first to take him seriously.

It turns out that Tom is Tom Wolfe and Max is editor to the greatest literary minds of the genius-leadtime, counting F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) among his authors. They’re all jealous of each other, of course, all big egos with weighty demands on Max’s time, and skill.  This movie will make you feel as though editors do not get paid nearly enough. It might also question just who is the Genius referred to in the title – is it the brilliant writer, or is the man editing his writing so that it may appear brilliant to others? Certainly Max is good at spotting talent, but also at shaping it.

Not everyone is grateful, however. Max’s wife Louise (Laura Linney) feels neglected. Tom’s wife Aline feels even worse: she feels replaced. Aline (Nicole Kidman) isn’t even properly his wife – she left her husband and her children just as they were grown to be with Tom and feel needed by him. She supported him for years as he wrote feverishly, as the rejection letters piled up around them. But now that his work has found a home, and an audience, he doesn’t need her as much, and she knows it. She is obsolete, and she warns Max that he may soon be the same.

The real meat of the story is the relationship between writer and editor, the ugly push and genius-official-trailer-14960-largepull necessary to hone a manuscript into a masterpiece. Max Perkins has an excellent track record but still prefers to hide behind an editor’s anonymity, still grapples with the fear of having “deformed” someone’s work.

 

Colin Firth never sets a foot wrong, so it’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why this movie isn’t great. I suppose if I had just the one word it would be: superficial. I suppose it must be a great headache to make writing and editing, two very quiet, solitary activities, seem cinematic, and I can tell you that director Michael Grandage has not found the way to make them seem otherwise. Firth is fatherly, Law is petulant, Linney saintly though ill-serviced by the script, Kidman downright unhinged. It just never really gels. After more than 100 minutes, I was left thinking: is that it? The story is sufficiently interesting that I will look up the book upon which it is based, not because the movie left me wanting more, but because it left me needing more, which is never a good sign.

 

 

Uncle Nick

Are you in the mood for a creepy Christmas movie? Not murderous abortion creepy, worse: lecherous\incestuous\underage creepy.

Nick’s brother has recently become a trophy husband. His rich wife is hosting Christmas dinner for her 2 kids, her new and improved (and needless to say younger, and useless) husband and Nick the alcoholic brother (Brian Posehn) is invited, against everyone’s better instincts, as well as Nick’s sister and her podcasting husband: a real blended-family Christmas. Nick’s sole goal, besides soaking in gin, is to fuck his new niece. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Set in the dumpster fire that is Cleveland Ohio (sorry Cleveland, it’s only sort of personal: mv5bmtu3mza4ntuymv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjy0otaznze-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_the last time I visited it was for massive surgery, which naturally didn’t leave me with a fond impression), the Christmas festivities are twinned with a retelling of 10-cent beer night at an Indians game back in 1974. That’s a real baseball game where the drunken fans rioted and mayhem and nudity and violence broke out and the game had to be forfeited and abandoned: not a “traditional” Christmas pairing. It can’t have looked right even on paper but in practice it’s downright untenable.

I suppose this was meant to be a raunchy comedy, only someone left out all the comedy. We never truly know any of the quirky characters either, or how any of them consented to spending the holiday in such an insufferable way.

I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about this movie, so instead I’ll dig deep and say something nice about Cleveland: while you’re there, you can visit the house used in exterior shots of a monumentally better holiday movie called A Christmas Story. Watch it. Watch it again. Even if it’s the 20th time you’ve seen it (even if it’s the 20th time this year!) it’ll still be a better experience than even 5 minutes with slimy Uncle Nick.

 

A Little Bit of Heaven

My bullshit meter was flashing big red lights when I read Netflix’s description of the Kate Hudson film, A Little Bit of Heaven: she plays a “woman who has everything – including cancer.” Hell yes I was wary, but it seemed like it would be light enough that my head cold could deal with it, so I gave it a go. It was actually a little bit of hell.

I mean, first, kudos for giving Kate Hudson ass cancer. Well, that came out a-little-bit-of-heaven-01wrong. But you know what I mean: usually a pretty blonde will linger with some glamorous kind of cancer that makes you pale but otherwise untouched. Colon cancer is a mother fucker. I mean, you wouldn’t know it from the movie. She even keeps all her hair! But she does get to suffer the indignity of the old camera up the wazoo trick, and has to admit to cute guys that she’s bleeding in her poop. So that’s kind of wonderful. A laugh riot, if you will. At least that’s what they’re striving for. In reality, the movie’s quite tone deaf.

They try really hard to make Marley (Hudson) an edgy, new kind of female character, one that doesn’t need love to be happy. Except of course it’s her Earthbounddying wish. And of course her oncologist happens to be dreamy Gael Garcia Bernal. But there are even worse travesties than this afoot. First, as she lays dying, Marley talks to “God” (Whoopi Goldberg), who apparently is in the business of granting 3 wishes, like a genie. Even more egregious is Peter Dinklage, who pops up as a little person hooker whose nickname is – you guessed it – A Little Bit of Heaven. Because when the jokes about butt cancer dry up, why not make a joke out of someone’s sexuality? Ugh.

But just when you’re about to really give in to this sexy romcom -slash-terminal cancer hilarity, director Nicole Kassall shoves a funnel down your throat to make sure your overdose on sentimentality is complete. It’s the kind of movie that has you wishing Kate Hudson would just die already.

 

 

The Late Bloomer

A sex addiction therapist endures a severe kick in the nuts that leads to a hospital visit, that leads to the discovery of a brain tumor. That’s the good news. The brain tumor is benign, and has been leaning heavily on his pituitary gland this whole time, which means 30 year old Peter (Johnny Simmons) has NEVER gone through puberty. Buckle up, folks: he’s about to!

And he’s pleased as punch. He’ll finally get to have sex! Finally know the joys of erections and masturbation and third base! The opening title card warns us we’re in for “some ridiculously fucked up shit” and they’re not wrong. They took a “true story”, made it unbelievable and yet generically raunchy, and stripped it of any humour. The situation is bursting with potential but director Kevin Pollack decided nah, let’s just be basic and boring about it. And be sure to completely waste the supporting cast while we’re at it.

It feels like the stuff that Judd Apatow left on the cutting room floor after editing The 40 untitled.pngYear Old Virgin, and the fact that Jane Lynch is in both is just a painful reminder that this subject actually CAN be funny, should be funny, and in fact probably took a lot of effort to screw up this badly. How much effort, you ask? Well, by my count: there are 2 credited with “story by” and FIVE credited with screenwriting. Five! All dudes, naturally. Dudes who like visual jokes about morning wood and sneaky semen. And that doesn’t even count the guy who wrote the book, you know, the REAL guy that this actually happened to.

His name is Ken Baker. The real dude spent one season as pro hockey’s “oldest rookie” and is a “journalist” who has worked for People magazine and the E! network. He is not and never has been a sex therapist, which is an unnecessary layer added by lazy writers who thought it would be funny and in fact is just plain stupid. How someone smart enough to earn a PhD would refuse to see a doctor about his condition but deem it a good idea to give advice to people about an act of intimacy he’s never done himself and is in fact biologically incapable of completing is just unacceptable. Do not insult me with such stupidity.

If you surf by this one on Netflix, don’t be fooled by the recognizable cast. It is not worthy of your time. It will fail to incite a single laugh. It should be flushed down the toilet like a used condom.

True Memoirs of an International Assassin

truememoirsinternationalassassin-kevinjames-gunContinuing the “proud” tradition of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a movie that is so uninspired, it will make you search for other ways to pass the time.  After about five minutes, Jay started cleaning out our closet and is now showing me shirts I had forgotten I owned.  It turns out I have a lot of nice clothes!

True Memoirs of an International Assassin is not exactly a terrible movie.  It’s just a totally predictable and generic one to the point that it will drive you to housecleaning.  I think there was an attempt at a plot but it just felt like a blend of twenty other better movies, and even those “better” movies weren’t all that great.  This is another tale of South American dictators and guerrillas and druglords and corrupt CIA agents and one man standing up to them for the greater good.  When that one man is Kevin James, it is for some reason harder to swallow than when a fifty-something Harrison Ford did basically the same thing in Clear and Present Danger.  All the imaginary fight sequences in the world couldn’t make me believe that Kevin James could take anyone in a fight.

This movie might have been tolerable if Kevin James had delivered some comedy, of any kind.  Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.  This is not a comedy or a spoof.  It is an action movie starring a comedian which delivers mediocre and forgettable action from start to finish.  There is punching and shooting and jumping out of helicopters and it all feels flat and staged, but since there’s no satire to be found my only option was to try and enjoy the action for what it was.  I didn’t.  Again, it’s just stuff that we’ve all seen in a bunch of other movies, only not as good.

We are now back to rewatching Gilmore Girls in preparation for the reunion shows.  And even though by now I find all the Gilmores completely unbearable (we’re well into season six), at least they are making me laugh.  That’s all I expected from True Memoirs of an International Assassin and I was left wanting.  Don’t bother with this one.

Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler

I am too young to remember Nibbler from the arcade but it was on my computer at some point during university, along with Solitaire, Hearts, and Free Cell.  In Nibbler, the player controls a snake with the goal of eating all the dots on the board.  But every dot you eat makes your snake get longer (in a very non-sexual way), and if you let the snake run into itself then it dies (I guess because it is super poisonous?). All in all, a pretty simple concept, but like most 80s games, you can playmanvssnake-cartoon-billionpoints-700x374 the game forever doing the exact same thing over and over, just a little faster each time.

As a natural-born procrastinator, I played a few rounds of Nibbler while avoiding writing research papers.   Is it just me or has YouTube/Facebook/Twitter made all those games obsolete?  Anyway, back in the day I became quite good at Free Cell but mastery over Nibbler always eluded me.  Part of it was that I found the game extremely boring (possibly more boring than writing the paper I was trying to avoid), so I’d only last one or two games and then I’d move on to something else.

Unlike me, there are 40+ year olds who seem not to get bored by Nibbler, and who play that game for marathon sessions, 30 hours or more, in order to score a billion points.  Nibbler’s claim to fame is that the developer had the foresight to display a score nine digits long instead of the usual six, so Nibbler’s whirring numbers went that much higher than its contemporaries before flipping back to zero (which may be part of why we feared Y2K so much, because in all these games you could lose everything by playing just a bit too long).  Nibbler focuses primarily on the first player to hit a billion in the game, the unfortunately named Tim McVey.  He hit the high score back in 1983 and promptly moved on to other games because after playing the game for 40 hours straight he couldn’t bear to touch a Nibbler machine ever again, but hemanvssnake_1280-720x405 returns to the competitive Nibbler arena in his 40s when he learns he might not actually have held the world record all those years.

We’ve reviewed some very good documentaries on Netflix recently (like Ava DuVernay’s excellent 13th).  Man vs Snake does not come close to those heights.  It is unlikely to inspire you or educate you or show you anything worthwhile.  This lifelong quest for high scores in a dull, repetitive game is led by people who like dull, repetitive things and inevitably are stuck in the past due to their nature.  Certainly, the gameplay footage, which features prominently in a whodunit-type post-mortem of one marathon attempt, is going to hurt your eyes because it’s painfully archaic.  I don’t know how I ever stared at any of those screens.  It’s impossible for me to stare at them now or hear the incessant beeping that was a staple of the arcade experience back then, the equivalent of the bells on a slot machine, over and over and over.

While it is interesting to peek inside these people’s lives for a few minutes, my interest faded long before the movie wrapped up.  At its core, Man vs Snake is a dull, repetitive experience, much like Nibbler itself.  It’s a decent time-waster that you will likely get bored of before it ends, and you may want your quarter back.  There are much better documentaries to be found in the Netflix arcade.