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Jessica Welman

Netflix Entry #16: Tron: Legacy (2010)

This is a weird admission, but I have been a weirdly obsessed Garrett Hedlund fan since his turn in Friday Night Lights. I've seen some surprisingly good movies, like "Four Brothers", and some unsurprisingly mediocre movies, like "Eragon" and "Troy", all because I try to support Hedlund whenever I can.

So, one would think I would be all about Tron, especially when you consider that Hedlund is a relatively handsome guy and he spends 80% of the film in a tight-fitting unitard.

Spandex could not save this one for me though. I tried to pay attention, I really did, but the duel Jeff Bridges and a convoluted plot required too much of my attention and I turned it off about halfway through. I'm sorry, Garrett. I'll make it up to you by watching "Country Strong"
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Netflix Entry #15 - The Birdcage (1996)

Yes, like "Teen Wolf", "The Birdcage" is a movie that has just slipped by all these years without me viewing it. I find this even more surprising than "Teen Wolf" though considering it came out during the peak of my love for Robin Williams and is a story that is primed and ready to appeal to my camp sensibilities.

Unsurprisingly, it was hilarious and delightful and I chastise myself for not getting around to it sooner. Thankfully, I have remedied this problem.

Can we also just take a minute to reflect how funny Gene Hackman is? I know he will be remembered for his dramatic roles, but I think his turn as Royal Tenenbaum is still my favorite and his turn in this movie is right up there too. Random factiod: Hackman used to pal around with Dick Van Dyke when they were kids and Van Dyke was friends with one of Hackman's older relatives. And hey, if a guy is good enough for Mr. Van Dyke, then he is good enough for me.
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I have my first can't stop listening to it album of 2012 and it is actually by a guy I went to high school with. I once played Matt Duncan's deranged, serial killer sister in a production of "The Man Who Came To Dinner."

Now he has moved on to much bigger things, including producing music that strikes me more as something I might hear in 60s and 70s and I can't get enough of it.
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Netflix Entry #14 - Teen Wolf (1985)

There are some glaring holes in my film repertoire, most of which fall in the gangster and action genres, as well as comedies of the 1980s. The former is easily explainable. The latter, not so much.

I wish I had a reason to justify having never seen "Teen Wolf" all the way through, but I don't. I've seen pieces. I know the references, but I was still missing the big picture and jumped on watching it before the title expired on New Year's.

Tonally I was really surprised that there was so much tongue-in-cheek humor and near-camp. In particular, the father-son relationship stands out as having a lot of unexpected humor.

I have to digress to talk about a source of unexpected humor for me though. I watched the flick while I was home for the holidays and my 9 year old nephew sauntered by during one of the basketball scenes.

"What is this?"

"It is 'Teen Wolf.'"

"What's it about?"

"Um...a teenage werewolf..."

He wandered away, then came back a while later during a scene where Michael J Fox didn't have the make-up on.

"Who's that guy?"

"It is the main guy, the one who is the werewolf."

"That guy? You're telling me that guy is a wolf."

I was too young to remember the reception it got when it came out, but I find it funny and interesting that my nephew, having no frame of reference to Michael J Fox, found it impossible to buy him as 1. a menacing werewolf and 2. cool in any respect. When you think about it, he is an unlikely leading man, and certainly not the type of guy you would label cool, but one stint as Alex P Keating and he is the guy everybody in the 80s wanted to be.

I end with a sad confession: May not have seen "Teen Wolf" the movie, but definitely watched this on Saturday morning:
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Woefully behind on these, but doing my best to hold myself accountable and write about things that aren't poker in 2012, so here goes:

Netflix Entry #13 Sondheim: The Birthday Concert (2010)

I'll keep this one brief. Whether you are a fan of musicals or not, most people will concede Stephen Sondheim is one of the greatest musical theater composers in history. So, a concert honoring his birthday with some of Broadway's top performers is never going to be bad. This one exceeded expectations though, thanks to some amusing banter from host David Hyde Pierce.

If you don't like musicals, you won't like this. If, like me, you think there is not much better than musicals and musical theater, watch this as soon as you can, it is worth your time.

Oh, and watch the Elaine Stritch video from my last post. Seriously. Amazing.
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Okay, I will do the official Netflix Queue Review of Sondheim's birthday concert soon, but I just had to pause mid-video to say this:

How the eff did I go so long without seeing Elaine Stritch sing "I'm Still Here"?? This isn't the video from the concert, but if you get a chance and enjoy musical theater at all, you must watch her immediately because she is just phenomenal and does so much with so little effort.
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For those who like Kristen Bell (I'm looking at you +Jay Rosenkrantz and +Drew Freedman, if you like campy stuff and haven't seen the musical remake of Reefer Madness, she is pretty effing hysterical in it. A clip for your perusal:
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Netflix Entry #12 - Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

I have seen a fair amount of musicals in my day, but somehow Little Shop has flown under my radar. I decided to fix that the other day, though I wonder if filling in that gap was entirely necessary.

There are some great parts to this movie, including small roles for Bill Murray and Steve Martin (who plays a dentist, an occupation my friends can attest I find weirdly attractive). There are some great songs like the riff on "Dowtown" about Skid Row and "Suddenly, Seymour" which is now a mainstay on my Showiest Showtunes That Could Ever Be Showtunes playlist on Spotify.

So why am I so meh on this movie? Part of the problem is I expected more camp. As a fan of RuPaul, Rocky Horror, Reefer Madness, and a movie called Camp, why bar for the campy is high. This movie has its camp moments, but it isn't as campy as I was led to believe. The lead actors are charming, some of the music is catchy, but there just isn't enough over-the-top zaniness considering one of the leads of this story is a killer plant.
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Netflix Entry #11 - Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Strange as this may sound, I'd only ever seen the 1994 version of this movie. So, when I had some time to kill waiting for a friend on Thanksgiving, I finally crossed this one off my classics list.

Man oh man, what was I waiting for? This movie was fantastic! Charming, compelling, and just the kind of message you want to hear this time of year. I won't go into all the other great aspects as I am late to the party here, but let's just say if you haven't seen this movie, you need to this season.
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Netflix Entry #10 - You Again (2010)

I should be ashamed to admit this, yet here I am writing it publicly: I enjoyed the universally panned "You Again" much more than I did "Bridesmaids." For those who might not be aware, I not only find Bridesmaids relatively devoid of humor, I also found it downright depressing. Even more disheartening than the film itself was the championing of the movie by my female peers of the entertainment industry getting women right.

I didn't think that movie got my life right at all. Kristen Whig's life sounded horrible in that movie. No job, no home, and her friends disappearing one by one as they run off to get married. And in the end, she doesn't get a resolution to her downward spiral. She gets some Wilson Phillips (which would rock, granted) and a date with a dude. Still has no job. Still has no income. Still has no friends. Yes, this is hysterical. But because she gets a guy, none of those other things matter apparently anymore. For those of us with no romantic interest in our life, we are just destined to live crappy existences, I guess. Hence, my distaste for Bridesmaids.

Now I am not going to argue that You Again is some amazing piece of feminist filmmaking. However, I was able to find a lot more to relate to in Kristen Bell's Olivia, who does not have much of a love life, but finds fulfillment in her career. I can also relate to how much her life in high school still impacts the way she thinks of herself today. I can even get on board with her vindictive behavior towards her soon to be sister-in-law and former school nemesis Joanna (Odette Yustman), because she feels she is owed an apology and that the mean girl needs to learn that actions have consequences.

Here is the thing though. I would take my appraisal of this flick with a grain of salt. Thanks to a gigantic girl crush on Ms. Bell, I would pay money to watch her braid her hair for two hours. I will also tell you the film isn't particularly funny. They take good advantage of Bell's skills as a physical comedienne, but also drastically underuse Kristin Chenowith as Joanna's wedding planner. Betty White is present too, but not given much material.

It may not be funny or life changing, but I could certainly relate to You Again more than Bridesmaids and found myself reasonably entertained after 90 minutes instead of wanting to find the nearest bridge.
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