Instant Gratification Quick Takes: September 12, 2010

All of the following titles are available for Netflix subscribers to watch streaming online through their computer, Iphone and Ipad, as well as on certain Blu Ray DVD players and game consoles.

* Modern Girls (1986) — The plot: Three self-professed “modern girls” Margo, Cece and Kelly — played by Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs, The Sure Thing), Cynthia Gibb (Youngblood, Short Circuit 2) and Virginia Madsen  (who I always thought looked a little too much like brother Michael Madsen with a blonde wig) — have zany adventures in LA after dorky suitor Brad — played by Stephen Shellen (Casual Sex?, The Stepfather) — shows up for a date with Kelly and finds he’s been stood up for a narcissistic musician who calls himself DJ Bruno X. Modern Girls is proof that I need to stop choosing films to watch on Netflix just because there might be an off-chance that they might have a great soundtrack. IMDb fun facts: Modern Girls was directed by Jerry Kramer, who went on direct Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and not much else. It was written by Laurie Craig. Craig would take a break from Hollywood after penning Modern Girls — her first screenplay — only to reemerge in the late 1990s as a screenwriter of family-oriented fare (Her latest script to be developed into a movie is Ramona and Beezus based on the Beverly Cleary book. It’s due to come out in theaters later this year.) My assessment is that Modern Girls is semi-amusing at best. The soundtrack, by the way, was a disappointment. What was it with the 80s and saxophones? Cool poster though. Only mildly recommended as a time capsule of the mid-1980s, when everyone was just too hip for their own good. (Click here to add this to your queue!)

* Weeds: Season One (2005) – I’m sure you know the premise by now. Mary Louise-Parker plays Nancy Botwin, a widow living in suburban Los Angeles who sells marijuana to support her two sons, Silas and Shane. This Emmy-award winning show is in its sixth season on Showtime, but I just started watching it last month. As a fan of cable television dramadies like Californication and Big Love, I figured Weeds was something that I’d enjoy and I have been enjoying it. One of the great things about the show is that, despite being about cannabis, Weeds is not just an excuse for an endless parade of stoner humor. The show’s drug humor — a genre of comedy which can get old pretty fast without the proper medicinal supplements — is actually kept to a minimum. Weeds isn’t a show about smoking pot. It’s about selling pot. In that way, it’s more of a satire of the business world than the marijuana culture. My only really complaint with the dozen or so episodes that make up Weeds first season is that I wasn’t particularly blown away by any particular story arc or revelation. To use a marijuana metaphor, watching the first season was a mellow high but really no huge peaks or valleys. Lots of set-up. Fortunately, the final shot of Season One was enough of a shocker to keep me hooked for another season. I’m now watching Season Two and I feel the show is only getting better. (Click here to add this to your queue!)

* Second City: First Family of Comedy (2006) – Made-for-Canadian television documentary about the history of Chicago and Toronto’s legendary Second City improv comedy troupe. Hosted by Second City alumni Dave Thomas (SCTV), Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall) and Joe Flaherty (SCTV). While the banter between the archival footage is award show bad, the actual footage taken from Second City’s stage shows and SCTV‘s eight year run are worth the price of admission alone. Fascinating stuff. It proves, without a doubt, why Second City is the training ground for anyone and everyone looking to make a living in comedy. This documentary’s enough to tie Second City fans over until Netflix begins streaming full-length episodes of SCTV. (Click here to add this to your queue!)

* Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981) – Sequel to the 1980 seminal slasher movie. Directed by Steve Miner, who would go on to direct the third Friday the 13th film, as well as cult classics House and Warlock. Miner also directed Soul Man — but we’re trying to forget that one. Friday the 13th: Part 2 is better than the original, although that’s not any huge feat. More importantly, it set the template for horror movie sequels: higher body count, gorier kills, more nudity and — in the end — the potential for further sequels down the line. Friday the 13th fans know this is the film which introduces us to Jason Vorhees as the madman with the machete, although it wouldn’t be until Part 3 that he would don his trademark hockey mask. Jason would go on to stalk naughty teens at Camp Crystal Lake for five more films before heading off wreak havoc in New York, Hell and a space station, before taking on Freddy Krueger, then heading back to Crystal Lake for a reboot. (Click here to add this to your queue!)

* Friday the 13th: Part 3 (1982) – More mayhem at Camp Crystal Lake. This time, in anaglyphic 3D. So get out those red-and-cyan glasses! This was released during the same era which brought us Jaws 3D — but we’re trying to forget that one. More of what you’ve come to expect from the series — loads of gratuitous nudity and interesting kills courtesy Mr. Vorhees, who acquires his signature outfit in this sequel. The 3D effects are hit-and-miss, at least they would be if Netflix didn’t just offer a 2D version. There’s a 3D version on DVD out there somewhere if you can find it. Anyway, the 3D effects are fun — or at least I imagine they would be — in scenes such as when Jason squeezes a camp counselor’s head until his eyeball pops out and flies at the camera. If you’re like me though, you’ll be rolling your eyes though when a character flicks a yo-yo at the camera or swings a baseball bat at the camera for no good reason. (Click here to add this to your queue!)

* Breathless (1960) – Jean-Luc Godard’s classic tale about a sorta of shady dude obsessed with Humphrey Bogart who kills a cop and flees to Paris, where he hooks up with an American woman. The two of them do a lot of talking, about movies and art and such, after which the woman must decide whether she’s going to stick with Bogie Lite or make a clean break. Do not adjust your television set when, during some of the duo’s free-flowing conversations, the scene appears to leap forward in time. Those would be the “jump cuts” Godard was known for pioneering in this film. It’s a technique which I believe is meant to show passing of time and, though it comes off as a little bit jarring today, was seriously punk rock when this film was released. You know what else is punk rock? When the main character, Michel, out of nowhere looks right into the lens of the camera to deliver his dialogue. Also, the frank talk about sex — completely taboo for any American film produced during this time period. This is an important movie to watch and, unlike a lot of important films, pretty enjoyable to watch as well.  (Click here to add this to your queue!)

Crossover madness

The higher-ups at Netflix must be fans of 50 Movies for 50 States. Three more of the movies I’ve reviewed are now available to watch instantly. Read the review then watch the movie!

* Runaway Train (Alaska) – Read the review! / Add it to your queue!

* Boxcar Bertha (Arkansas) – Read the review! / Add it to your queue!

* Squirm (Georgia) – Read the review! Add it to your queue!


One response to “Instant Gratification Quick Takes: September 12, 2010

  1. this is great, matt. i love that i can add them to my queue without searching. i just rewatched breathless two nights ago. i reel from it each time. so minimal and beautiful.


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