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Flix in Canada, on Netflix…

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Day 96: The Ice Storm (1997)

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January 22, 2014ice

It’s time to dust off the old Netflix Canada blog and get back into some Netflix content!

The Ice Storm is about a family that it slowly breaking apart in all directions. Set against the backdrop of a killer ice storm – rain, sleet, and freezing rain – this drama follows the Hood family (the all-American mom, dad, and two kids) and their swingin’ friends. It’s a low-budget film with high budget actors. There’s nothing terribly original in The Ice Storm, but it’s a movie that has enough curious storylines to keep you invested in it until the very end. And a twist that you might not see coming.

The Ice Storm has a star-studded cast, many of whom hadn’t been in any major motion pictures yet. A younger Tobey Maguire (in his pre-blockbuster SpiderMan trilogy days) plays Paul Hood, son of Ben Hood (Kevin Kline). As I’m sure you know, Kline has appeared in dozens of films and television shows over the years. My favourite ‘Kline’ movie is still Dave (1993), where he plays dual roles as President Bill Mitchell, and presidential look-alike Dave Kovic. Here on Netflix Canada, you can also catch him in In & Out, Trade, and Queen to Play.

Heavy hitters Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, and Katie Holmes round out this stellar cast. Weaver is, without a doubt, a household name. From her early days in Ghostbusters and Alien to later films Avatar and  Cabin in the Woods – she’s done it all. And then there’s Katie Holmes… ah yes, little Joey Potter from six seasons of Dawson’s Creek. At the time, the future wife of Tom Cruise. Future ex-wife of Tom Cruise. She plays the lovely Libbits Casey, love interest of Maguire (the lucky bastard).

Today’s six degrees of separation: I mentioned the movie Dave earlier. Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver both starred in that film – and ironically, in both movies they have affairs with each other. What are the chances of that?!

Watch The Ice Storm. It’s a 70s flick that will have you marvelling at the hideous fashion trends and following the story-heavy tale of a few families in turmoil.

– Blair

Written by Blair

January 23, 2014 at 5:06 am

Day 95: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

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September 5, 2013 Image

Today’s movie is a bit of a dark horse. I must admit, I can’t remember it being out in theatres, but in all honesty, I’m not much of a Steve Carell fan. After having just finished watching Crazy, Stupid, Love, I might just have to search out more of his stuff.

This movie was a lot of fun – and in some parts, simply hysterical. It didn’t start out with much gusto, but if you hang in there for the ride, it gets more interesting and funny the longer you watch. The characters are, well, easy to care about.

Plus, it has Emma Stone in it, so that makes it move way up the list as far as movies I enjoy.

Stupid, Crazy, Love is about a couple – Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) who, after 20+ years of marriage, decides to go their separate ways after Emily has an affair. As they each navigate the waters of being single again, they both have a lot of second thoughts about ending their marriage. Add into the mix a babysitter who has the hots for Cal, and Cal’s son Robbie who has the hots for the babysitter… it adds up to a great big recipe for disaster, drama, and comedy.

Ryan Gosling plays Jacob, a womanizing playboy of a guy who schools Cal about the ways of women in 2011. Emma Stone plays Hannah, a girl that Jacob falls head over heels in love with – which erks Cal for more reasons that I can tell you here. Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei appear in cameos as well.

Crazy, Stupid, Love pulled in more than $84-million at the box office in the fall of 2011. 

Watch Crazy, Stupid, Love – it’s full of heart, lots of genuine laughs, and yes, a subtle message in the end.

– Blair

Written by Blair

September 6, 2013 at 4:15 am

Day 94: Breakdown (1997)

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September 3, 2013Image

Today’s film is an oldie but a goodie – an intense, edge-of-your-seat thriller. It reminds me of The Vanishing (Kiefer Sutherland), but with a different ending. Breakdown came four years later and was every bit as eery.

In Breakdown, Kurt Russell (Backdraft) stars as Jeff Taylor, a regular ordinary guy on a roadtrip across country with his wife. When their SUV breaks down in the middle of the dessert, Jeff’s wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) accepts a ride to the next town by a friendly truck driver.

When Jeff catches up to the next town, his wife is no where to be found and the truck driver who gave Amy the ride claims to have never met the pair.

J.T. Walsh played the sinister bad guy in this film. He appeared in dozens of movies before his death of a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 54. Breakdown was considered to be his feature film break-out role. It was his last.

Breakdown was released in theatres in 1997 and grossed over $50-million at the box office.

Watch Breakdown for an intense thriller that will leave your heart pounding until the very last frame.

– Blair

Written by Blair

September 3, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Day 93: Moneyball (2011)

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September 1, 2013 Image

Moneyball is a movie about changing the economics of Major League Baseball.

Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt – Snatch, 12 Monkeys) challenges the system and brings a new level of logic when he’s forced to rebuild his MLB team on a shoe-string budget. Along with Yale-educated economist Pete Brand (Jonah Hill – The Sitter, Superbad), they set out to buy hits and runs instead of buying big-name players and reputations.

If you think this sounds a little like the Major League series (1989, Charlie Sheen), it most certainly is not. Based on a true story of the 2002 MLB season, Moneyball was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor and Best Picture. 

As you’ll quickly find out watching Moneyball, you don’t have to be a die-hard baseball fan to love this movie. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill will surprise you with their depth and dramatic skill. Neither actor has been in anything even close to what Moneyball is.

Watch Moneyball for an in-depth look at how baseball clubs are run and how championships are won – and lost.

– Blair

Written by Blair

September 1, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Day 92: Craigslist Joe (2012)

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August 28, 2013 craigsjoe

It’s been a while since I posted to the blog – when I learned that many of the earlier movies that I wrote about aren’t available for screening on Netflix anymore, it seemed to make the blog pointless. Why read about a movie you can’t even watch? I complained to Netflix and was told that titles are always rotating because of on-going contracts with studios. While some titles may always be available for instant access, you might come across many that are here then gone faster than you can watch them. Having said that, I hope the 30flix.com blog will continue to have value in some small way.

Lately I’ve been on a real documentary kick. I can’t think of any other medium where you’ll find more documentaries available for instant streaming than on Netflix. No matter what you’re into, there’s a documentary that will widen your mental scope of the world.

Today’s film won’t kick-start your passion for world peace, or have you singing Kumbaya, but as all good documentaries are supposed to do, it makes you think.

Craigslist Joe was the social experiment brainchild of then-29-year-old Joe Garner. His concept for the film was simple: to cut himself off from his friends, family, and worldly possessions for 31 days in December – with only the use of Craigslist to find food, shelter, transportation, and companionship. He’s armed with a laptop and a cellphone – no money – and just the clothes on his back. Sounds a little dangerous to me… but to be fair, he also had a cameraman with him (whom he had hired through an ad on Craigslist a couple of weeks before). He’ll find generosity, kindness, and some nasty weather.

His journey starts off slow, but soon he’s borrowed a bicycle, and had food and a shaving kit donated. After he answers a Craigslist posting for a free comedy improv show, he meets a retired College professor who offers to let Joe stay a night in his spare bedroom. From there he gets busy answering ads that find him given a free lunch for helping someone hang a new big screen tv; having a free piano lesson, and hitching a ride in a van that has more than a few mechanical problems. Thanks to a posting looking for a ride to Seattle, by Day 9, he’s in Washington. Along the way, he meets a number of Eclectic people. But the journey isn’t just fun and games; there are lessons to be learned.

Craigslist is probably the biggest online buy/sell/wanted website in North America today.

And at times, you find the most unusual posts. Here’s a sample taken from today in Toronto:

Egg donor wanted
We are looking for a healthy woman who can be an egg donor to help our family. You are 22-32 y.o., Caucasian with blond hair and blue-grey eyes, with no immediate genetic diseases.

Polygraph examination – $1 (GTA)
Hi there craigslisters,
I am in current need of a polygraph examiner locally. If anyone can give me details that would be wonderful.
If you can provide assistance in passing a polygraph examination when dishonest your feedback is greatly appreciated or if you know somebody that can do test exams in preparation that is handy too OR if to avoid failing if honest. Please no judgement.
 
Watch Craigslist Joe, for a smart documentary that hits on some universal issues. Are there better documentaries out there? Absolutely. But this takes a closer look at Craigslist and how society interacts with one another in a unique way.
 – Blair

Written by Blair

August 29, 2013 at 1:17 am

Day 91: Seeking Justice (2011)

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February 10, 2013 seeking

Have you ever come across a movie on Netflix that you had never heard of before – and it had big name movie stars in it? Welcome to Seeking Justice, a story about an average couple minding their own business, travelling their own path in life.
Suddenly, the wife is brutally attacked and raped, and their life path has been altered forever.

But the plot thickens – when a mysterious man shows up at the hospital and offers the husband instant revenge – the ultimate revenge. This mystery man knows who raped the man’s wife and knows where to find him. He talks about how traumatizing a court trial would be for the wife; how the wheels of justice take years. Instead, the man offers (on behalf of a vigilante group) to kill the rapist flat out… except there’s a catch: the husband will have to agree to do a favor in return, at a later date.

And just like that… the life path is altered again.

Nicolas Cage stars as Will Gerard, a New Orleans high school english teacher. His wife Laura, played by January Jones, watches as her husband transforms into a paranoid shell of his former self when the vigilante group comes back with a request that he’s morally against.

This film was a surprisingly great thriller with lots of little plot twists here and there that kept it fresh from start to finish. Seeking Justice did get a theatrical release in 2011, but it only made it to 231 screens. Apparently it had a much warmer response in its Italy release.

January Jones is best known for her role as Betty Draper in the wildly popular Mad Men series. She also appeared in X-Men: First Class and We Are Marshall (a couple of my personal favourites). And for what it’s worth, another LOST actor appears in today’s flick! This time it’s Harold Perrineau (Michael)in his first post-LOST role as Jimmy, best friend of main character Will.

Watch Seeking Justice – it’s smart, methodical, and thought-provoking.

– Blair

Written by Blair

February 11, 2013 at 4:24 am

Day 90: The Roommate (2011)

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February 3, 2013

Today’s movie is from the thriller genre; it’s a completely “by-the-book” formula of a girlwith an obsessive psycho for a roommate. It’s a littImagele bit like Single White Female meets The Hand that Rocked the Cradle meets The Crush. If you haven’t seen any of those films, Google them. You’ll quickly see the similarities.

Minka Kelly plays college freshman Sara Matthews (no relation), a fashion design student from small-town Iowa. She’s made it to big time Los Angeles to study fashion, but she didn’t count on crossing paths with a rather unbalanced roommate named Rebecca (actress Leighton Marissa Meester).

Two years ago, The Roommate hit the big screen (February 2011). With a budget of $15-million, it broke even on its opening weekend, and that’s always a good sign.

This movie came out at a good time – Minka Kelly had just enjoyed a long 4-year run on NBC’s Friday Night Lights as Lyla Garrity, and was ready to break out into other roles. The Roommate was her first big starring role and hopefully it won’t be her last. With the right film and the right character, she looks like a star. Unfortunately, The Roommate wasn’t quite “it”. Minka Kelly has also appeared in NBC’s “Parenthood” as Gaby, Max Braverman’s therapist.

Perhaps the biggest waste of talent in The Roommate is Billy Zane, who plays Professor Roberts. Zane, of course, played the rich and arrogant ‘Cal’ Hockley in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic.

Watch The Roommate. It’s predictable, but still very watchable.

– Blair

P.S. – if you REALLY want to see a stark raving lunatic teenage girl being driven to insanity, check out Erika Christensen in Swimfan (2002). Another excellent stalker flick! The critics hated it – judge for yourself!

Written by Blair

February 3, 2013 at 7:44 am

Netflix service disruptions…

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November 23, 2012

For the past few days, the Netflix service has been extremely hit-and-miss. Though there haven’t been any official announcements from Netflix Canada, it’s obvious there have been problems somewhere.

I tried to watch a movie tonight and for the past half hour have been getting the “Service Unavailable” message on my Apple TV. Anyone else been having problems? I’d love to hear from you

In the meantime, here’s a nifty site I found that monitors Netflix up and down times:

http://downrightnow.com/netflix

– Blair

Written by Blair

November 24, 2012 at 3:54 am

Blair is ‘Movembering’ – please donate if you can…

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I don’t ask much from my faithful Netflix blog readers, but it’s Movember and time to make a difference.

Men’s health is a cause I am passionate about but in order to make a difference I need your help. My commitment is to grow a moustache for the month of November and in doing so, raise vital awareness and funds for prostate cancer and male mental health.

I am asking you to help support my personal journey by making a donation. The size of which isn’t important, every little bit helps Movember to continue funding its world class programs.  If you want to know more about what you’ll be helping to fund, you can visit http://ca.movember.com/about/funding-overview/.

To highlight the importance of what I am doing, take a look at these statistics:
•    1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime
•    This year 26,500 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed
•    1 in 5 men will experience a mental illness this year

If you’d like to help change these statistics, please donate to me here: http://mobro.co/blairmatthews

If you’re interested, here’s a video that will help you better understand the type of programs you’ll be helping to fund by making a donation. For wider details, take a look at the Programs We Fund section on the Movember website: http://ca.movember.com/about/funding-overview/

Thank you in advance for supporting my efforts to change the face of men’s health.

Blair

Written by Blair

November 8, 2012 at 1:31 am

Posted in Movies

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Day 89: Ghostbusters (1984)

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October 31, 2012 

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood Who ya gonna call?

Wait, you’ve heard this before?

What a perfect movie to watch on this Halloween eve, and it helps us slide nicely into our 80’s film week coming up soon!

In case you forgot, Ghostbusters is the story of three unemployed parapsychology professors who decide to start a business ridding New York City of the paranormal. The evil Zuul haunts a New York highrise and is looking for a way to bring his master Gozer from another dimension to Earth – more specifically, New York City.

Ghostbusters opened in theatres in June 1984 and was an instant hit. It grossed a worldwide jackpot of $280,549,539. In terms of most popular movies of ’84, Ghostbusters ranked #2 behind A Nightmare on Elm Street. And did you notice that there are no opening credits for Ghostbusters? Just the logo. Odd, but true. I wish more movies would do that!

Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, What About Bob?), Dan Aykroyd (Christmas With the Kranks, The Blues Brothers), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar, Dave) and Rick Moranis (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Strange Brew) starred in Ghostbusters.

The movie kick-started a frenzy of Ghostbusters toys, clothes, video games, product associations, a sequel, and an animated Saturday morning cartoon. Ray Parker Jr. performed the title song for the movie where it reached #1 for three weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and #1 for two weeks on its Black Singles chart. The song was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984 but lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from The Woman in Red.

Watch Ghostbusters – it’s an 80’s Halloween classic with an all-star cast, some neat special effects (primitive nowadays), and lots of zany laughs.

– Blair

Written by Blair

October 31, 2012 at 7:45 am

Day 88: The Mist (2007)

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October 30, 2012 

I figured that since superstorm Sandy is rolling through the east coast right now, this would be a fitting movie to write about.

After an intense storm roars through the small town of Bridgon, Maine, residents flock to their local grocery store to re-stock their cupboards. As the storm lifts, a thick mist fills the town and with it brings otherworldly creatures that attack anything in their path. Eighty people barricade themselves in the grocery store as they fend off everything from giant locusts to a menacing monster with tentacles. Don’t kid yourself – there’s nothing ‘Sesame Street’ about these fury things. As we quickly learn, the military has some knowledge of what this mysterious fog is – but even they don’t anticipate what it will bring.

This movie is scary, heavy on story and character development, and doesn’t hold back on the gore factor. It’s just about the perfect movie to watch for Halloween. Originally written by Stephen King in 1980 as a novella, it was adapted to the big screen by Frank Darabont. As popular as Stephen King’s stories usually are, this film would have to be considered a flop by Hollywood standards. In its theatrical release it totalled just $57,289,103.

The Mist stars Thomas Jane (Boogie Nights, Face/Off), Marcia Gay Harden (Damages, Whip It), Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), Andre Braugher (Salt, Poseidon) among others. And from our ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ file: Marcia Gay Harden appeared in three episodes of Law & Order SVU – as did Andre Braugher – although in different seasons. And if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead series, you’ll recognize Laurie Holden (Andrea in WD) and Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale in WD)… if you watch carefully you’ll notice that Melissa Suzanne McBride (Carol in WD) plays a small role in The Mist too! It’s definitely strange to see all three actors in the same scene in a movie that was made several years before The Walking Dead premiered!

Watch The Mist – it’s a typical Stephen King story with an amazing twist at the end that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Rated ‘R’ for violence, gore, and terror. Definitely a great Halloween flick to watch after you’ve put the kids to bed. You might never look at fog the same way again.

– Blair

Day 87: The Grudge

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October 29, 2012 

With Hurricane Sandy currently hammering the eastern U.S. states and blowing up this way into Ontario, it’s a good night to stay in. Hopefully Halloween night won’t get skipped over this year due to rain, but it’s a definite possibility depending on where you live.

Today’s Halloween flick is a remake of Japanese horror film Ju-On that will have your heart pounding from start to finish.

In Tokyo, Japan, a horrific curse is claiming the lives of all who enter a mysterious house.

Ever notice the more recent trend of featuring hot chicks in the leading roles of horror movies? Examples: Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer part 1 & 2); Jessica Biel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre); Ali Larter (Final Destination part 1 & 2); Neve Campbell (Scream parts 1-4). The trend continues with Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge and its sequel.

With a budget of $10-million, this film over-achieved at the box office in the Fall of 2004, pulling in $110-million by Christmas. And as Hollywood films go, anytime a movie breaks the $100-million mark it usually spawns a sequel. Two years later, audiences were treated to The Grudge II (not me, personally, since I don’t go out of my way to frequent horror movies).

Watch The Grudge – it’s rated 14A for violence, language, and sexual content.

Written by Blair

October 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Day 86: Paranormal Activity 2

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October 27, 2012 

Well here we are again, one year later almost to the day… it’s Halloween week here on the 30flix.com blog! I decided to give the horror genre another try (even though last year I promised to bring someone in to screen these films and write about them here instead of having to do it myself). But I’m a big boy, I think I can handle a few scripted screams and a little fake blood.

Having said that, Paranormal Activity 2 scared the duty right outta me. Since I liked last year’s Paranormal Activity (Part 1), I figured I could muster up enough gusto to do it all over again.

Maybe if I write about soiling my underthings enough, the ads appearing at the bottom of this blog posting will start endorsing Depends. And that would be fitting for the week I’m about to experience.

Paranormal Activity 2 is the story of a typical successful American family who moves into a house in Carlsbad, California. Only days after they move in they start having a series of break-ins. Things get broken, tossed around, and disturbed, but almost nothing is ever stolen. This leads the family to install half a dozen security cameras in and around the house – where it’s quickly revealed there’s much more going on in the house than anyone has suspected.

As you may have read, I was a real fan of the first Paranormal Activity because of the thought that was put into the story and the simple way it was developed. It scares you not by what you see, but by what you don’t see. It doesn’t rely on gratuitous blood, guts, or bad acting. It doesn’t insult you by asking you to suspend your disbelief like most other horror movies. Paranormal Activity tells the story much like the first with a series of videocamera home movies and security camera footage. It’s this method of storytelling that lends another layer of realism to what you’re watching.

Actress Katie Featherston is back as “Katie” in this prequel to Paranormal Activity. If you saw the first film, you’ll be asking ‘how can Katie be in PNA2 after the way PNA1 ended?’ The answer is that this second movie is a prequel that occurred two months before first. Incidentally, Katie ties into the prequel because she is the sister of Kristy, who also shows up in PNA3 and 4. But that’s fodder for next year’s blog post!

Watch Paranormal Activity 2. Netflix rates it “Iffy for 16″… or in my case, Iffy for someone in their 30s. 🙂 It was a suspenseful flick with lots of  ‘creepy’ moments that will help you get into the Halloween spirit… I mean “mood”.

– Blair

Day 85: Mansome (2012)

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October 13, 2012 

It’s another documentary day here on the Netflix Canada (30flix.com) blog! Today we’re delving into the world of men’s grooming – a topic near and dear to my heart.

I mean comeon… who doesn’t salivate at the thought of watching a tell-all documentary about the history of male body hair? For what it’s worth, the topic isn’t nearly as boring as it sounds. For one, it’s a film made by Morgan Spurlock, so that’s reason enough to tune in. Spurlock has made some great insightful films in his short career (titles like Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold), and his reality show 30 Days that ran for three seasons on FX was a favourite of mine. Though Mansome won’t go down in the annals of cinemographic history as the most educational film ever made, it has its moments.

Like the discussion of moustaches and the appearance by Old Spice television commercial star, Isaiah Mustafa, who talks about the image facial hair exudes. Then we get lots of moustache wearers commenting about why they fashion the hair that they do. Of all the famous moustaches out there, I can’t believe that nobody mentioned Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. moustache.

The worldwide business of men’s grooming products and services is projected to be worth $33.2-billion per year by 2015 (and that’s not even a stat they mention in the film).

The highlight of Mansome is the portion dedicated to Jack Passion, professional beardsman. What exactly is a beardsman? I’m glad you asked. Picture a younger version of the ZZ Top guys, and you’ve got Jack Passion. This guy lives and breathes the sport of beard growing. He and his mammoth beard compete all over the world against other like-bearded males for cash and prizes – and undisputed world beard championships. Passion has one two world titles and six best in show. And yes, there is a Beard Team U.S.A.

The only downfall of this documentary is the annoying appearances of Jason Bateman and Will Arnette, enjoying a man spa day in clips thoughout.

Overall, this isn’t Spurlock’s best documentary, but I can think of a lot worse ways to kill 84 minutes – like spending time shaving my entire body, for example.

Watch Mansome for a light-hearted comical look at a subject often thought about but rarely talked about.

– Blair

Day 84: In The Line Of Fire (1993)

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October 12, 2012 

Can you believe Clint Eastwood is 82-years-old? I’m not sure how old I thought he was – I guess I never really thought about it. To me he’s every bit as timeless as Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks; all have been acting for decades (though Clint Eastwood is the longest reigning box office champ of that group of actors).

When I think of Clint Eastwood, the actor, I think of The Bridges of Madison County and Million Dollar Baby. But if you’re an older movie connoisseur you’ll remember his more famous early movies like Dirty Harry and Play Misty For Me. In the early days, he was a bad ass. In today’s movie, he’s a little bit older, a little bit greyer, but still every bit as charismatic as he’s always been.

In The Line Of Fire is the thrilling story of Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan – the only agent who is still actively protecting Presidents since the assassination of JFK. Those images of a dead President – and his failure to protect him – still haunt Frank as he learns of a new threat to the current President. It’s up to Frank to figure out the “where” and “when”, and stop a man who is also willing to sacrifice his life for the President’s. Playing this twister killer is the uber talented John Malkovich .

Did you know President Obama receives approximately 10,000 death threats every year (up significantly from George W. Bush’s 3,000 threats per year)? Most threats are kept under wraps for fear of copycat attempts.Currently, the Secret Service has over 6,500 employees and costs American taxpayers $1.6-billion per year.

Watch In The Line Of Fire – it’s intense, full of suspense, and whether you like Clint Eastwood’s politics or not, you’ll love him in this film!

– Blair

Written by Blair

October 13, 2012 at 12:57 am

Day 82: Traffic (2000)

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September 2, 2012 

Today’s Academy award-winning movie is about corruption, addiction, and the endless war on drugs.

Traffic is divided up into three (or is it four) separate stories with the same common theme (but told from different perspectives). If you’re into that kind of story-telling you’ll like Traffic. If you prefer your movie to be one seamless tale, you might prefer something different. I found that it jumped around between stories a lot – perfectly fine if you’re paying close attention. The only issue I had with it is that with so many characters it was hard to connect with any of them.

Having said that, Traffic has a large cast with some big names (and some then-small time actors who have since made it big). You’ll immediately recognize Hollywood mainstays Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Don Cheadle; other fresh Hollywood faces like Topher Grace and Erika Christensen were debuting on the big screen in this film as well.

It’s been 12 years since the movie first hit theatres and so far as I can tell, nothing has changed. Watch Traffic for a gritty look at a controversial subject.

– Blair

Still blogging, still watching Netflix… I hope you are too!

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September 2, 2012

It’s been almost two years since I embarked on this historic Netflix Canada movie-watching adventure… and the blog is still going strong! The original concept was to watch one Netflix movie each day for 30 days and blog about it for those whose weren’t sure what was worth checking out on this new Canadian service. While the Netflix Canada service isn’t ‘new’ anymore, it has grown a lot over the past 24 months; instead of stopping at 30 movies, I kept watching and writing – and you kept reading. These days, we average about 300-400 website visits per day (kind of crazy since on Day 1 of the blog, only 3 visitors happened upon the Netflix blog experiment).

If you’re just discovering the blog now, I hope you’ll scroll down and check out my thoughts about many of the movies I’ve reviewed. I’m not a paid critic – I’m just a regular guy who enjoys movies and the stories they tell. In the coming weeks I’ll be adding more movie reviews as we creep ever so close to 100 films reviewed; I’ll also be adding some new polls and requesting movie suggestions from YOU – so please check back here shortly!

Thanks for reading, and happy Netflixing!

– Blair

Written by Blair

September 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Day 81: Knowing (2009)

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August 26, 2012

Today’s movie has a similar theme to yesterday’s Super 8, but with a much different outcome. It makes me wonder what Steven Spielberg might have done differently with Knowing. Watch both movies and tell me which one you liked better!

In 1959 a class of elementary students fills a time capsule to commemorate the official opening of their school. Most of the children draw pictures of what they dream the world will look like in 50 years; young Lucina frantically scribbles a page of numbers as she hears strange voices in her head. In 2009, the time capsule is opened and student Caleb Koestler gets Lucinda’s “drawing” and his father John (Nicolas Cage), an astrophysicist and grieving widower, takes a look. He discovers the numbers correspond with dates of disasters – natural or otherwise – over the past 50 years along with the number who died. The more he investigates, the more confused he becomes. Is there no such thing as ‘chance’ or a change in destiny? Could a little girl have predicted the future with precise accuracy 50 years before?

I liked the premise of this movie a lot. The idea that everything in life has been predetermined is a fascinating concept to me, albeit downright scary.

Nicolas Cage is a superb actor whose roles span numerous genres. He can be a mean sonofabitch like he was in Face-Off, or he can be a kind soul as he was in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Personally, my favourite Nicolas Cage role is as Ben Gates in the National Treasure films. Sidebar: National Treasure 3 has been announced but no release date set yet. Rose Byrne plays Diana, Lucinda’s daughter, who helps unravel the mystery of the numbers that drove her mother insane. Byrne can also be seen right now as the star of Damages Season 5 (one of my personal favourite Netflix TV series). And since you’re in Canada, you should know this: Damages Season 5 is being made available with a new episode up on Netflix right after it airs in the U.S. Right now we’re at episode 8. Even the folks who have Netflix in the United States aren’t getting THAT on their Netflix. 🙂

At the box office, Knowing grossed about $80-million, but the critics weren’t overly impressed by it. Are they EVER happy with anything???

Watch Knowing – it’s a movie that has taken a genre and looked at it in a different way.

– Blair

Written by Blair

August 27, 2012 at 5:13 am

Day 80: Super 8 (2011)

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August 22, 2012 

Today’s film is a Steven Spielberg production, written and directed by J.J. Abrams, called Super 8. It’s part alien thriller, part mystery, part coming-of-age flick. Think The Sandlot meets a mean ugly version of E.T.

It’s 1979, and Kyle Chandler plays deputy Jackson Lamb, a deputy who quickly realizes that the military is up to Top Secret business in his jurisdication. A train de-railment that Jackson’s son Joe (Joel Courtney) and his friends witness while filming an amateur movie causes chaos in the small town of Lillian, Ohio. The military claims the train was pulling cars full of airplane parts, but when strange things start to happen in town, it’s obvious there’s a cover-up going on.

If you were a fan of NBC’s Friday Night Lights, you’ll recognize Kyle Chandler as the popular Coach Taylor. Elle Fanning (yes, Dakota Fanning’s younger sister) plays Alice Dainard; Ron Eldard plays Alice’s father, Louis. You might remember him from his fun role in the 1999 flick Mystery Alaska as the womanizing ‘Skank’ Marden.

I loved the first half of Super 8 because it reminded me a lot of my teenage days when I was running around in the 1980s with a videocamera making movies and writing stories. The second half of Super 8 felt like I was watching a completely different movie. It’s as though one person wrote the first half and then someone else with different ideas twisted the story in another direction. The special effects were outstanding, but the latter half of the story left a lot to be desired. But that’s just my own personal opinion. Either way, this film brought in $260-million at the box office – and that’s nothing to complain about.

Watch Super 8 for a different take on the alien genre.

– Blair

Written by Blair

August 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Day 79: The Way (2010)

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August 21, 2012 

It took watching 78 movies before I came across The Way by chance; of all the movies I’ve seen, this one is by far one of my favourite Netflixable films. It’s got a little bit of everything: humour, sadness, inspiration, and hope. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something comforting about The Way from beginning to end.

The Way is the story of a father (Martin Sheen) who heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son (Emilio Estevez) who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the 500-mile pilgrimage himself, with his son’s ashes tucked away in his bag. It may not sound like much, but it’s a remarkable story about an equally remarkable journey.

El Camino de Santiago (or The Way of St. James) is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north west Spain, where legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried. The journey involves a 500-mile route from start to finish. Millions of people have walked, biked, and driven the El Camino de Santiago.

The Way was shot in 40 days with a skeleton crew of fifty people and a couple of cameras for filming. There were no trailers for the talent, no director’s chair, no fancy lighting, or million-dollar marketing budget. And yet it got made the way it was envisioned. The Way premièred in September 2010 at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Martin Sheen is a tremendous actor. You probably know him best as President Bartlet from NBC’s The West Wing tv show (7 seasons). An actor since 1967, Martin Sheen has appeared in dozens of movies from Spawn, The Thin Red Line and The American President to Catch Me If You Can, Firestarter, JFK and The Amazing Spider Man.

Emilio Estevez, who directed The Way, is likely a familiar face to you too. He starred in 80s classics The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Young Guns.

Watch The Way – it won’t be 2 hours wasted, and it might just become one of your favourite Netflixables too!

– Blair

Written by Blair

August 22, 2012 at 4:38 am

Day 78: Grown Ups (2010)

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August 16, 2012 

I’m not Adam Sandler’s biggest fan, but I do admit I’ve probably seen most of his movies. Good or bad, I’ve at least gotten a few laughs from all of them. Without question, my all-time favourite Adam Sandler flick is Happy Gilmore (the Waterboy is a close second). It was goofy, unrealistic, silly, and had a lot of his trademark yelling in it – that’s probably why I love it. Oh, and anything with Bob Barker in it gets top marks from me!

Today’s movie is Grown Ups featuring a star-studded cast of comedians and beautiful people (the wives and daughters, NOT the comedians). Adam Sandler plays Lenny Feder, a successful Hollywood agent living the good life with his wife and two kids. One day he gets the call that his favourite junior school basketball coach has passed away, and so he reunited with some long-lost friends at the coach’s funeral. Thirty years earlier, these five friends played on the school’s winning basketball team, but now each has grown up and gone in a different direction. Most have kids, one is on his third marriage.

I liked this movie, but for some reason it just didn’t live up to its potential. With the talent thrown together into one movie I thought it would have been… funnier. But maybe you’ll see humour where I didn’t.

When you stop and think about it, most of the main actors in this film have starred with Sandler in other movies at one time or another. Kevin James (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry); Rob Schneider (You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, 50 First Dates); Blake Clark (The Waterboy); David Spade (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry); Chris Rock (You Don’t Mess With the Zohan).

Grown Ups made $162-million at the box office two summers ago. And since the first movie did so well, it should come as no surprise that Grown Ups 2 is now in production, due out in July 2013.

Watch Grown Ups for a few really good laughs here and there, but mostly it’s just like sitting around with a group of friends making jokes at the expense of each other. What could be better?

– Blair

Day 77: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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July 6, 2012 Image

By now you probably know of the story of Planet of the Apes. It’s a tale that stretches back to the book published in 1963, and then five years later, a famous movie version featuring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall. I never much cared for the concept or the early Heston movie, but when I watched the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes here on Netflix, I was fascinated. I just had to watch this movienow. NOW. So I pushed the others I had planned to watch a little further down the queue, and the ape adventure began.

If you’ve never seen any of the Planet of the Apes films, this one is a must-watch. It’s a re-boot, as they call it, when the franchise is re-told, loosely based on the original version but with different characters and perspectives. The outcome, presumably, is the same.

So what’s it about, you ask? Scientists in San Francisco are conducting genetic research on apes, seeking a cure for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s. The evolved primates develop advanced intelligence from the drug, and revolt against being used as lab rats. If you know the premise, then I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. This film gives a fresh perspective on how the apes came to possess such superior intelligence.

It’s a fabulous movie that is fast-paced, star-studded, and gives the franchise new life. A sequel to this prequel is already in the works for a 2014 release.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes stars James Franco (127 Hours) as the head scientist, Freida Pinto as his girlfriend, and John Lithgow (The Manhattan Project) as his ailing father.

John Lithgow continues to win me over with his range of acting genres. Over the years he’s bounced around between movies and television from dramatic, comedy, and sometimes downright creepy. Remember him as the Trinity (serial) Killer in Season 4 of Dexter? And the strict bible-thumping minister in Footloose? How about alien Dick Solomon, in the 90’s award-winning comedy NBC blockbuster 3rd Rock from the Sun? For my money, anything with John Lithgow in it deserves a serious look.

Watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes – it’s worth every minute you spend in front of the television!

– Blair

Day 76: Dear Zachary (2008)

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June 27, 2012 

It’s another documentary day here on the 30flix on Netflix Canada blog! Today’s film is sad, heart-breaking, depressing, and heinous.

And we have fellow blogger, Terris Schneider, to blame for recommending this tear-filled true story. [Thanks Terris – for knocking me off my high horse and making me cry.]

Documentaries are made to tell stories – they educate, entertain, inform, and in this case, they give insight into unravelling a mystery of murder.

Dear Zachary follows the story told by filmmaker Kurt Kuenne about his childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, who was found murdered in a Pennsylvania state park in 2001; shot five times. The murder devastated Andrew’s parents, and came as a shock to his close friends and colleagues, but what unfolded after that is a tragic tale from start to bitter finish. Andrew was allegedly murdered by his ex-girlfriend Shirley – who, by all accounts, was a raging lunatic. She was eventually arrested in Newfoundland and released on $75,000 bail. A woman who was accused of a brutal crime was tethered to her small town in Newfoundland only by a once-per-week check-in at the local police station. The plot thickened when it came out that Shirley was four months pregnant with Andrew’s child. And this story was only just getting started…

What was originally intended to be a documentary memorializing Andrew for friends and family morphed into a tribute to him for the son he never had a chance to meet. Along the way is much discussion about Canadian law, bail procedures, custody laws, and what happens when everything goes wrong. For the most part, this isn’t a political film or a story that bogs you down with boring facts. Quite the opposite.

I want to tell you more about Dear Zachary, but if I did, it might spoil it for you – and I urge you to give this film a watch if you haven’t already. It won many film festival awards and even had a condensed version broadcast on CBC. It got people talking and laws got changed as a direct result of it.

After Dear Zachary was released in 2008, the filmmaker released this statement: “I wish that I had never had the opportunity to make this film. I wish that my friend Dr. Andrew Bagby was alive and well and that I was blissfully ignorant of the lessons I’ve learned along this journey. Alas, this is not the case. When bad things happen, good people have to take what they’ve learned and make the world a better place, and that is precisely what I hope this film will do – make the world a better place.”

This documentary left me angry, questioning our legal system, and it touched a nerve unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen. Most of all, it made me think – which is something all great documentaries should do.

Watch Dear Zachary, but do it with eyes wide open and tissues at arm’s reach.

– Blair

P.S. – After watching Dear Zachary, you can find out more information about Kurt, Andrew, Zachary, and donations in Andrew’s memory by visiting: dearzachary.com

Written by Blair

June 28, 2012 at 1:42 am

Day 75: Water for Elephants

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June 3, 2012 

After the first 5 minutes of Water for Elephants, I was hooked. These days, everyone is a critic – and so, as not to spoil my own viewing of this movie (which you may have already seen), I didn’t Google it to see what everyone else had to say about it. Five minutes is all it took for me to become emotionally invested in this 1930s tale of the circus life. And the longer I watched the more intrigued I became.

On the surface, this is a movie about a travelling circus going through The Great Depression. But as the layers reveal themselves, Water for Elephants is about love, lust, greed, redemption, and betrayal. Such a range of emotion, and the story is woven together beautifully.

So what’s it all about? Young veterinary student Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) leaves town after the bank repossesses his parents’ house and in the middle of the night hops aboard a moving train unaware that he’s jumping into the middle of a travelling circus. He spends a day shovelling manure to earn his keep, but when circus boss August takes exception to how Jacob boarded his train uninvited, he nearly throws Jacob off. But something stops him; an educated man – with veterinary experience, August assesses, could come in very handy with circus animals.

Jacob quickly becomes a part of August’s inner circle, but what he doesn’t count on is how deep his feelings for August’s beautiful wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) will run.

Watch Water for Elephants. It’s a brilliant story full of ups and downs – and it’s not a chick flick, despite what you may have heard.

– Blair

Day 74: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

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June 2, 2012 

By a show of hands: who thinks it’s weird that a guy can make a living sticking his hand up a puppet’s butt?

OK, hands down.

And now you can feel as shameful for raising your hand at that question as I do, because the story of Kevin Clash is absolutely remarkable.

As a kid growing up in the 60s, Clash loved watching Disney specials on television and yearned to make puppets. In high school while most boys were playing sports, Clash was learning to sew his own puppets and routinely put on puppet shows for neighbourhood kids. His shows became so popular that he was asked to be on then-CBS affiliate in Baltimore, WMAR, on a show called Caboose.

When Sesame Street debuted in 1969, Clash was glued to the set, once again marveling at the creations of Jim Henson. He finally got to meet his idol when he was asked to serve as a puppeteer on the Sesame Street float in the 1979 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; he got to animate Cookie Monster. He remembers studying the Cookie Monster puppet, turning it inside out to see how it was sewn and the stitching methods used.

Clash’s first movie was a Jim Henson production starring David Bowie called Labyrinth (available for streaming here on Netflix Canada).

By 1984 Clash was working as an official puppeteer for Sesame Street. And when a fellow puppeteer wasn’t getting what he could “being Elmo”, he passed the character on to Clash who made Elmo into the lovable character that the world embraced.

These days Clash is a producer for Sesame Street and is still bringing Elmo to life.

Watch Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. If you’re like me, you grew up watching The Muppets and Sesame Street – this documentary will bring you back to your childhood in a way you won’t expect. I loved this documentary; I think you will too.

– Blair

Written by Blair

June 3, 2012 at 5:41 am

Day 73: Unthinkable (2010)

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June 1, 2012 

I can’t remember a movie with Samuel L. Jackson that I DIDN’T like – and that trend continues today with Unthinkable, an intense film overflowing with passion, desperation, and patriotism.

Steven Arthur Younger, a former U.S. explosives expert, has converted to Islam and turned his back on his country. In the process he has built three nuclear bombs and hidden them in three separate U.S. cities with only days before they’re set to go off. When Younger allows himself to be caught, it’s up to former Special Ops ‘consultant’ “H” (Jackson) and FBI agent Helen Brody to extract the truth about where he’s hidden the three bombs.”H” and Brody have very different ideas of how this information should be attained.

For as long as terrorist movies have been around, the use of torture has been hotly debated. How much force is acceptable? How far should “negotiators” be allowed to go before it’s deemed inhumane? A finger? Five fingers? How about a few teeth forceable removed in an effort to get a captive to reveal vital information… this is the question that Unthinkable seeks to answer. Before Unthinkable came 24, another show whose main character, Jack Bauer, often pushed the limits of civil rights vs. the right to use whatever means necessary when faced with the unthinkable (pun intended).

And just as I was about to repeat my famous phrase: “there aren’t any actors from LOST in today’s film”, I stand corrected. If you look carefully during the interrogation scenes with Steven Arthur Young, you’ll notice actor Dayo Ade as an army soldier standing guard with a really big gun. He appeared briefly in two episodes of Season 6 on LOST as an ‘Other’. He got the axe in his second episode – literally. You might also recognize a younger Ade as ‘BLT’ from Degrassi Junior  (and High).

Watch Unthinkable. It’s intensity with the volume turned way up. It’s rated ‘R’ for extreme and graphic violence.

– Blair

Written by Blair

June 3, 2012 at 3:23 am

Day 72: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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May 13, 2012 

New to Netflix Canada and just in time to watch before you go out and see The Avengers, today’s film helps us all understand the origins of Captain America.

Why isn’t there a Captain Canada? Can’t you picture it – instead of a super strong shield with a star on it, Captain Canada’s would be in the shape of a maple leaf. And it would be made of beaver pelt.

Where was I going with that.

Anyway, today’s movie is Captain America: The First Avenger. I have to be honest; I have absolutely no recollection of this movie being released in theatres last year, but apparently it pulled in $360-million last summer. I must have been off in a corner somewhere watching Netflix movies and writing this blog.

As the Captain America story goes, in 1942 after being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret ‘Project Rebirth’ that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending the USA’s ideals.

Captain America stars Chris Evans (Cellular, Not Another Teen Movie), Tommy Lee Jones (Rules of Engagement, Man of the House), Stanley Tucci (Maid in Manhattan, It Could Happen to You) , and Samuel L. Jackson (1408, Shaft, Iron Man 2, Freedomland).

Watch Captain America: The First Avenger for a refresher before you head out to the big one this weekend!

– Blair

Written by Blair

May 16, 2012 at 3:07 am

Day 71: Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters & Marvels (2002)

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May 10, 2012 

Stan Lee is, without a doubt, a gifted storyteller in the world of comic book make-believe.

Today’s film is a documentary series by Kevin Smith that documents Stan Lee’s start in comics back in the 1950s. At the time super hero comics hadn’t hit their stride yet – everything was about romance or westerns. But Stan played a huge part in taking comics to new heights. When he first started writing professionally, there was Captain America and the Human Torch. While Stan worked on many comics as a writer and producer at Marvel, his first creation was The Fantastic Four in 1961. Wikipedia helps out here with some background on FF: “The four individuals traditionally associated with the Fantastic Four, who gained superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space, are: Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), a scientific genius and the leader of the group, who can stretch his body into incredible lengths and shapes; the Invisible Woman (Susan ‘Sue’ Storm), who eventually married Reed, who can render herself invisible and later project powerful force fields; the Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Sue’s younger brother, who can generate flames, surround himself with them and fly; and the monstrous Things (Ben Grimm), their grumpy but benevolent friend, a former college football star and Reed’s college roommate as well as a good pilot, who possesses superhuman strength and endurance due to the nature of his stone-like flesh.”

In 2011 the Fantastic Four celebrated 50 years of publishing – 600 issues in total, more than any other comic book still being written. The Fantastic Four was made into studio productions on the big screen in 2005 and a sequel in 2007. After FF, Stan created The Incredible Hulk comic (which went on to be made into a CBS television series from 1978-1982). As he has with many of the television productions and movies whose characters he created, Stan Lee shows up in a cameo role in The Incredible Hulk tv series. It’s become almost a running joke – a Where’s Waldo type thing – to figure out when and where Stan will pop up in any given Marvel production. Over the past 50 years he’s written, created and/or produced: Spider Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Dare Devil – and all the characters and villains that go with those titles.

If you’re a fan of comic books and super heros, you’ll LOVE this documentary series. And click on over to this link for a compilation of Stan Lee cameos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO0NsKFJ6gE

Watch Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters & Marvels for a fabulous look into the life of Stan Lee.

– Blair

Written by Blair

May 11, 2012 at 6:38 am

Day 70: Iron Man 2 (2010)

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May 7, 2012 

As super hero movies go, Iron Man 2 is heavy on action and a little thinner on plot than the first installment. Then again, these movies rarely get recognized as Oscar-calibre films. Sometimes I wonder that if a movie makes over $100-million at the box office, does that disqualify it from Oscar contention? Or is it that super hero movies sell tickets but are rarely seen as superb pieces of art? At the end of the day, movies are about entertainment – no matter what genre you find it in.

For what it’s worth, I really like the Iron Man story. Granted, it’s not as dramatic as a boy being bitten by a radioactive spider, or a boy shipped off to Earth from a planet that is about to explode, but Iron Man holds its own from a plot perspective.

Iron Man 2 picks up where the first one ended and this time the government is after Tony Stark’s Iron Man technology, design, and weapon secrets. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), son of a former Stark weapons designer, is out for revenge on Tony Stark and uses the arch reactor technology to build a similar Iron Man suit. As Tony Stark struggles to keep his technology under wraps and the government at bay, it’s Good VS. Evil in this Marvel Comics masterpiece. Ok, maybe it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a good way to spend 2 hours.

Iron Man 2 stars Robert Downey Jr. (Only You, True Believer), Gwyneth Paltrow (Hush, Two Lovers), Don Cheadle (Traffic, Reign Over Me, Traitor), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Nanny Diaries), and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler).

Will we see the return of Tony Stark in Iron Man 3? I wouldn’t bet against it, since there are already rumblings that 2013 is going to be another big year for this billionaire super hero! And between you and me, keep May 3, 2012 open on your schedule just in case. 🙂

Watch Iron Man 2 – it’s full of all the things that make these movies exciting, thrilling, and fun to watch.

– Blair

Written by Blair

May 9, 2012 at 3:01 am

Posted in Movies

Day 69: X-Men: First Class (2011)

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May 5, 2012 

To me, the X-Men series of movies were always average at best. Granted I never read comic books as a kid, but I faithfully watched The Transformers animated series every day after school and even went to the theatre on opening day to see Transformers: The Movie in the summer of 1986. But more on that in the days to come.

X-Men: First Class is without a doubt the best in the series. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movies that came before it even though this film is a prequel to those. Confused yet? First there was X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – and today’s movie that shows us how it all began, X-Men: First Class (2011). That’s a lot of Xs. Unfortunately, only the most recent X-Men movie is available here on Netflix Canada. Though I poke fun at how many films there have been in this series, this is no Police Academy run-on – every X-Men film has been tremendously successful. The easiest way to determine this is by the numbers: since the first movie in 2000 the franchise has generated $1.8-billion in revenue. Yes, BILLION.

X-Men: First Class brings the entire franchise full circle by showing us how Professor Xavier and Magneto came to be bitter arch rivals. Because at one time, they were best of friends, seeking to unite like-minded mutants with special powers.

Some familiar faces in this film: Kevin Bacon plays villan Sebastian Shaw, the lovely January Jones (from the Madmen series) plays bad girl Emma Frost, and Rose Byrne plays CIA Agent Moira McTaggert. If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games, you’ll recognize actress Jennifer Lawrence in this movie – she plays Raven. James McAvoy has the starring role here as Charles Xavier. If you haven’t had your fill of McAvoy, Netflix Canada also has Starter for 10 available for streaming now.

Will there be a sequel to this prequel? Apparently yes, but will it be a prequel to the prequel or a sequel to the prequel? I give up… just watch X-Men: First Class – and I’ll leave it up to you to sort out the rest.

– Blair

Written by Blair

May 7, 2012 at 12:24 am

Posted in Movies

It’s Super Hero Week here on 30flix!!!

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May 5, 2012

Today kicks off Super Hero Week here on the ’30Flix on Netflix Canada’ blog!! In honour of the release of The Avengers, about to become one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters, I’ll be writing about some of the previous Super Hero movies that you can watch right here on Netflix Canada – and there are more than you might think!

The Avengers has already broken weekend box office records, pulling in over $200-million since its release this past Friday. But hang onto your bat utility belt because The Dark Knight Rises is due out in theatres July 20 and will challenge The Avengers for this summer’s ultimate Super Hero movie.

– Blair

 

Written by Blair

May 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Day 68: Everybody’s Fine (2009)

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April 30, 2012 

Get the box of Kleenex ready for today’s film. Well ok, it’s not quite that bad. But if you’re currently an emotional wreck, the waterworks might flow sooner than later.

Today’s movie is one that I liked a lot, and can be summed up in one word: pride. Pride between a father and his children.

Frank (Robert De Niro) is a retired recent widower, whose wife always held the family together and kept their four grown children connected to them. After his wife’s passing, he struggles to find a way to bring his children “home” to sit together at the same table. As a father, Frank was the rock who always provided for his family, always tried to instill a sense of pride in them. He expected a lot and admittedly, was disappointed if they didn’t live up to their potential.

Determined to forge new relationships with his adult children, he sets the date, invites everyone and plans all the details, but at the last minute each kid finds an excuse not to make it home. Not to be deterred, Frank decides that if his children won’t come to him, he’ll go to them. He boards a bus and begins his quest to surprise each child in their respective city across the United States with a visit from Dad.

Robert De Niro has appeared in a stunning 91 films over the past 45 years and is considered to be one of the greatest actors in history. At the very least, he’s one of the most diverse with roles in genres from dramatic, thriller, suspense, comedy, and everything in between. On Netflix Canada he can also be found in movies: The Score, The Fan, Meet the Parents, Wag the Dog, Casino, and Falling In Love.

Lots can be found here on Netflix Canada starring Drew Barrymore as well: Charlie’s Angels, Riding in Cars with Boys, Duplex, Ever After, and one of her earliest movies, Firestarter.

And saving the best for last, the lovely Kate Beckinsale can be found in Netflix flicks: Much Ado About Nothing, Underworld, Cold Comfort Farm, Van Helsing, Tiptoes, and Vacancy.

Unfortunately, audiences didn’t gravitate to this movie when it hit theatres in 2009. The film, which cost $21-million to make, only brought in about half that much. But, it lives on with the dvd release and here on Netflix Canada. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why it didn’t do better – I’d classify it as a great date movie. The story is strong, the cast is stellar, and it’s a tale that most people can relate to in some way.

Watch Everybody’s Fine for a story that tugs at the heart strings in all the right ways. Plus, it has Kate Beckinsale in it, and that’s reason enough for a guy to watch it.

– Blair

Written by Blair

May 6, 2012 at 4:01 am

Day 67: LOST (The Complete Series)

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April 16, 2012 

As my sister would say, “Holy Hannah!!!!!”

Today marks a joyous occasion for Netflix Canada subscribers. LOST, that sometimes suspenseful, always intriguing series that I’ve frequently referenced here since the very beginning is FINALLY available to watch on Netflix. If you didn’t bother getting into the show, or watched only an episode here or there, here’s your chance to catch up on this award-winning series from square one.

For those unfamiliar, LOST followed the lives of survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, whose plane crashed 1,000 miles off course on a mysterious island on the way from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles. As the survivors quickly learn, the island is full of secrets, mystery, and unique properties. They also find out they’re not alone on the island.

From the very beginning, LOST was a show that was in a whole other league compared to other network offerings. At the time, it was ground-breaking for its story-telling and its cinematography. At times LOST was so fast-paced it was hard to absorb everything that was happening. As a fan who got hooked on the show early, my favourite episodes were the season finale of Season 1 and the premiere of Season 2. Of course in typical LOST fashion, there were always more questions than there were answers. And when some little tidbits of answers were given, a dozen more questions were prompted by it all.

Having said that, I was gripped tightly as a viewer for Seasons 1-5, but by Season 6 the show was spinning in a completely wrong direction for my liking. I can’t say I hated it, but for me, it was almost like there was one set of writers for 5 seasons and then somebody else writing for Season 6. But who knows – maybe my expectations were too high to be satisfied with the answers that Season 6 provided.

The acting in LOST was superb – almost too good in some instances. Three of the most complex and fascinating characters for me were John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), Jack Sheppard (Matthew Fox), and Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson). Of course, there were dozens of actors in the series along the way, and about a dozen main characters.

I’ll write more about specific episodes of LOST in future posts, but for now watch LOST. Now you have no excuses.

– Blair

Oh, and P.S. – After my rant about Dragon’s Den being yanked from Netflix Canada, it showed up again about a week later. No word on why it was there one day, gone the next. And as for my Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon being in french, apparently a glitch with Apple TV was to blame. A system update on my little black box remedied the problem. Merci beaucoup Apple TV!

Written by Blair

April 17, 2012 at 12:38 am

Day 66: Nothing to see here, move along…

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March 30, 2012

I was going to write two blog entries today to catch up on some of the things I’ve been watching lately, but when I sat down tonight to watch Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (newly added just this afternoon), it plays ENTIRELY IN FRENCH. Seriously.

Yes, I took french in school, no, I can’t speak it fluently (nor do I want to). Hopefully this is just a Netflix Canada glitch????????????? No excuse for this, in my book.

Secondly, CBC’s popular Dragon’s Den TV show was finally added to Netflix Canada about 10 days ago. I watched two episodes of season 1 (the only season added), but then yesterday when I went to watch another episode, the entire listing had been yanked without notice. I sent a Facebook message asking for an explanation; no reply.

Who do you have to know around here to get answers? If and when these corrections are made, I’ll mention it here on the blog.

– Blair

Written by Blair

March 31, 2012 at 3:23 am

Day 65: Trading Places (1983)

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March 8, 2012 Image

Today’s flick is an 80’s film that has become a bit of a comedy cult classic. Trading Places stars Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis. When a rich Wall Street broker is a victim of a cruel bet made between the two bosses of his firm, he ends up broke and homeless. On the flip-side, a street-wise hustler is made into a top executive in the firm overnight. The bet is whether a rich man can be turned into a petty criminal and can a poor thief succeed in the corporate world with no education or training and become an honest man in the process.

If you’ve never seen Trading Places before, you might recognize a few familiar faces in cameo roles. James Eckhouse shows up for about 2 seconds on-screen in this film as a police officer. Years later, he went on to star in Beverly Hills 90210 as Jim Walsh. James Belushi also appears (with an itty bitty credit at the bottom of the list) as a man dressed in a gorilla costume. Of course, Belushi went on to star in dozens of movies and television shows such as Mr. Destiny, K-9, Curly Sue, and in the television series According to Jim.

The very talented Ralph Bellamy, who played Randolph Duke, passed away in 1991 at the age of 87; his fellow ‘Duke’ brother, Don Ameche, died in 1993. He was 85.

As far as our ‘six degrees of separation’ goes, Dan Aykroyd starred alongside Jim Belushi in The Blues Brothers… Jim was the brother of James (mentioned above). Twenty-one years later, Aykroyd appeared again in a movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis called Christmas With The Kranks. Along the way he also had a guest spot on James’ According to Jim.

If you can believe this, Trading Places was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy). That year, YENTL (starring Barbra Streisand) won.

Watch Trading Places for some good laughs and a fun storyline that won’t make you think too hard. It’s rated ‘R’ for language and nudity.

– Blair

Written by Blair

March 9, 2012 at 5:49 am

Day 64: Degrassi – School’s Out

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February 16, 2012 Image

Today the Toronto Star is reporting the death of original Degrassi Junior High (and Degrassi High) actor Neil Hope.  Confusion surrounds this report, since The Star says Hope actually died five years ago but his death was only made public today. I’m sure there will be more clarity made in the coming days since the article says, at age 35, he died of natural causes. Oddly enough, Hope’s death hasn’t been mentioned yet on the CTV News website, the network that has the rights to air the Degrassi series. At least CBC, the original network to air DJH & DH ran a story about it today.

Many of you reading this blog grew up watching Degrassi Junior High, and its spin-off, Degrassi High, starring Pat Mastroianni (Joey), Stefan Brogren (Snake), Neil Hope (Wheels), and many others. Earlier this year, Netflix Canada added Degrassi High seasons 1 & 2 along with the end-of-series movie School’s Out to their library.

Rather than review the movie today, I’m including a story I wrote a few years ago based on an interview I did with Degrassi alum Stefan Brogren. Enjoy!

A note to those searching for the School’s Out movie but can’t find it listed – it’s filed under Season 2 of the show and broken up into several parts.

Watch School’s Out – it’s a part of Canadian television history that shouldn’t be missed. And RIP Neil Hope.

– Blair

Degrassi memories old & new for Stefan Brogren

Stefan Brogren may not be a household name, but mention the name ‘Snake’ from Degrassi and you’ll likely get a much different response. Brogren probably knows the halls of Degrassi better than anyone – first as a Grade 7 student at Degrassi Junior High in the 1980s, later at Degrassi High, and now as a teacher in the hit Canadian series Degrassi: The Next Generation.

At the time of the Degrassi Junior High auditions Brogren was attending a school for the arts in Toronto. Producers of the show dropped in one day looking for actors for a new Canadian series and held open auditions. Ironically, Brogren auditioned and read for main character Joey Jeremiah (which was eventually given to Pat Mastroianni). The producers ended up creating a character for Brogren named Archie Simpson (nicknamed Snake).

Brogren says that when the original series was just beginning more than 20 years ago, nobody really knew what was in store for the show. “You kind of go ‘wow, I’m going to be on a tv show’ but you don’t know if it’s going to be a hit or if it’s going to be seen … if it would stay longer than one season is another thing altogether,” he says.

The show was an instant hit with Canadian teen and pre-teen audiences when it debuted on the afternoon of January 18, 1987. Mid-season it was moved to the Sunday evening primetime slot.

Over the next two years the Toronto-based Degrassi Junior High tackled more than its share of pre-teen issues. Everything from drug use, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality and divorce – nothing, it seemed, was off-limits. “I think it was their mandate right from the very beginning and we knew that – they were going to take on some heavy stuff. It was pretty clear right off the top that this was going to be a scary show for the characters,” Brogren says.

The core group of characters primarily stayed the same – Joey, Snake, Wheels, Caitlyn, Spike; but a supporting cast of a dozen or so other classmates – including Arthur, Heather & Erica, Yik, Kathleen, and Shane – also played prominent roles. Some came and went, others popped up periodically.

When the characters moved on from junior high to high school, so too did the series as it became Degrassi High.

And the controversy followed.

The first two episodes of Degrassi High sparked controversy over the issue of abortion. Degrassi High character Erica (played by actress Angela Deiseach) was left with a decision that went against her Catholic faith after a summer camp fling left her with an unwanted pregnancy. As she weighed her options, she opted to have an abortion.

Canadian viewers saw the full un-edited episode where Erica battled her way through pro-life protesters outside a downtown Toronto abortion clinic, one of which held up a plastic fetus and chanted, “This is your baby… Can you really kill your baby?” It was an unforgettable Degrassi moment.

In the United States the abortion episode was heavily edited (by PBS) to exclude the clinic scene altogether and no final decision on whether Erica got an abortion was ever made.

For Brogren, the most intense Degrassi moment was the School’s Out movie, a made-for-television movie filmed in 1991, shortly after the tv series wrapped up.

In that movie, Brogren holds the distinction of being the first Canadian actor to use the F word on primetime television, in the most dramatic of scenes. “We actually shot two different versions of (the scene) – in the hopes that we could get away with it depending on the time that it was airing. I don’t think we knew until we saw the finale product on tv that I had actually said the F word. That was pretty cool.”

School’s Out brought Degrassi to yet another level of realism: Wheels (Neil Hope) was arrested and convicted of drunk driving in an accident that killed a 2-year-old boy; Joey cheated on Caitlin and in the process unknowingly knocked up Tessa Campanelli (Kirsten Bourne). There was drinking, pot smoking, and cursing – the Degrassi kids were finally growing up. It was clearly a movie that was intended to wrap up the Degrassi story once and for all.

While filming Schools Out Brogren and Mastroianni commiserated that it wouldnt be long before the characters they had played for years would cease to exist except in re-runs. “We thought it was the end of the show,” Brogren recalls. “I was kind of looking forward to saying, ‘you know, Degrassi will end, it’ll probably air in re-runs for a couple of years and then everyone will forget about it. No one will know about it anymore, and it was fun while it lasted’,” Brogren remembers thinking. “God knows I didn’t expect it to still be remembered. I thought it would be done by now. I’m very glad that it isn’t.”

These days Brogren looks back on those early days of Degrassi moments – both on and off camera – with fond memories. “There was a scene where Joey comes to fight the bully in the park and Pat, Neil and I had gone to this waterpark the day before. Pat, being italian, had a great tan; Neil and I had pretty bad burns. When the fight was actually happening, we were supposed to pull Joey off the bully – it hurt so much to even move.”

The resurrection of the Degrassi franchise – and the return of Archie Simpson, now a teacher at Degrassi – meant that Brogren and other Degrassi alumni returned to familiar roles, albeit as adults. “For us to get back into it was pretty easy,” Brogren says. “The writers had to decide where these characters were ten years later. They came to the table with the script and said ‘this is what you are now’ and it’s like great, I’m a teacher now.”

Other Degrassi alumni were also re-introduced in the new series: Spike (Amanda Stepto) now married to Snake; Joey Jeremiah (Pat Mastroianni), stepdad of Craig; Caitlin Ryan (Stacie Mistysyn), a national television journalist. Brogren says that reuniting with cast members he’d worked with 20 years ago was incredibly easy. “Working with Pat, we knew our rhythms, we had the same sense of humour as we did back then. He’s such a great person to work with. I had so much fun working with him again.”

Admittedly, Brogren says he wasn’t surprised that Degrassi was being brought back to television for another run. It had been talked about for several years before it was a done deal.

When Degrassi: The Next Generation aired its first episode on October 14, 2001, it was immediately established that we were now following Emma Nelson (Miriam McDonald) as a teenager – daughter of Spike, who gave birth to Emma in the original series. Along with Emma’s classmates, a whole new generation of kids were walking the halls at Degrassi.

Degrassi: The Next Generation has reached levels that the original series never could thanks, in part, to it finding a home on the CTV network in Canada and The N network in the U.S. It’s also available for download on iTunes.

Degrassi: The Next Generation recently finished its eighth season. Brogren says that there are definite similarities and differences between the original Degrassi series and The Next Generation. “When we were dealing with big VHS cameras on our shoulder trying to make little movies in the school, now these kids are making things on their phones. Gossip travels at a ridiculous pace, information travels at a ridiculous pace versus what was going on with us when we were that age. Subsequently there’s more opportunity to get these kids in trouble as far as stories are concerned,” he says. “As much as things change, they stay the same. The stories are very similar in a lot of ways to the original show it’s just how they get there is usually different based on how the world works today. Theres universal stories that kids are going to go through. I think on The Next Generation they just find new and interesting ways of telling those stories. The writers do an amazing job at it.”

These days Brogren is enjoying his work on Degrassi from behind the cameras as a producer as well as in front of them. If someone had told him 20 years ago that he’d be returning to Degrassi as a teacher he would never have believed them. “We used to joke about that stuff. I had no clue (then) that I’d still be involved with the show. They just won’t let me leave, and I thank them for that. As an adult doing teen television I’m having 10 times more fun. You’re visiting your youth again – it’s really enjoyable to throw your mind into teenage life and how that world works.”

Written by Blair

February 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Day 63: Groundhog Day (1993)

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February 2, 2012 Image

It’s official – Wiarton Willie, the famous weather-predicting groundhog from Wiarton, Ontario, is predicting an early Spring. Meanwhile in Punxsutawney, PA, Punxsutawney Phil is saying nope, still 6 weeks of winter. Bastard.

Today’s movie stars the ultra-talented Bill Murray as a Pennsylvania weatherman Phil Connors who is stuck in a revolving day where every morning he wakes up to Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney. Sounds like an absolute nightmare to me.

Feeling doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing every day, Phil attempts to make every ‘day’ as good as it can be (after, of course, he tries to kill himself unsuccessfully).

Groundhog Day was actually filmed in Woodstock, IL – the same town where scenes from Day 48’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The town of Woodstock has errected a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Murray continually steps into a puddle.

In real life, of Punxsutawney Phil’s 115 predictions on record so far, he has predicted an early spring 15 times (13%). As to his accuracy, according to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Phil’s predictions have been correct 39% of the time.

At a wedding a few years ago, the deejay played the “Pennsylvania Polka” song and my friends were floored that I knew all the words to it by heart. Well how could I not, having seen Groundhog Day for what seemed like dozens of times.

Watch Groundhog Day – viewing it once (which actually translates into watching it dozens of times) and you’ll probably never want to see it again. A fun movie nonetheless.

– Blair

Written by Blair

February 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Day 62: Stolen (2009)

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January 31, 2012 Image

If I had known how good Stolen was, I would have reviewed it about 60 movies ago.

Stolen is a film that tells two stories in one movie and intertwines them seamlessly. Jon Hamm (star of the hit television show Mad Men) plays detective Tom Adkins who is still dealing with the disappearance of his young son nine years after he went missing. When a construction worker discovers the remains of an adolescent boy buried in a wooden box on a job site, it dredges up old memories and re-ignites a spark that Adkins’ son might finally be laid to rest. As it turns out, the ‘boy in the box’, as the local newspaper dubs him, isn’t Adkins’ missing son afterall – the remains have been in the ground for at least 50 years.

And so, the film skews off in two directions; as we follow Adkins’ investigation of who the remains really belong to, we are whisked away to the same small town circa 1958 where we find Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas from the current NBC hit The Firm). He’s down on his luck, struggling as a widowed father of three. Stolen slides back and forth between the present with Adkins and the past with Wakefield, telling the story of two men who are living a parallel fear 50 years apart with the disappearance of their sons. Eventually, both timelines join as mysteries from the past are solved.

Stolen got very limited theatrical release, a real shame since Josh Lucas, Jon Hamm and James Vanderbeek are all such talented actors. You might also recognize Morena Baccarin from ABC’s now-cancelled re-boot series ‘V’ from last year.

Ironically, James Vanderbeek (from Day 60’s Varsity Blues) is the real shining star of this movie. As you’ll see in this film, his acting range is deep; he really should have more screen time.

From our six degrees of separation: Rhona Mitra, who played Tom Adkins’ wife Barbara in Stolen also appeared in Sweet Home Alabama alongside Josh Lucas. One of her early acting gigs in 1999 was on the FOX television series Party of Five as Bailey’s girlfriend. Bailey was played by Scott Wolf, who eventually went on to star with Morena Baccarin in the same ‘V’ series last year. Small world indeed.

Watch Stolen; it’s not a chick flick, it’s not overly sappy either. It’s heavy on story and a movie full of great performances.

– Blair

Written by Blair

February 1, 2012 at 7:07 am

Day 61: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

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January 18, 2012 

Morgan Spurlock’s ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold‘ (sponsored by POM Wonderful) might just be the greatest documentary ever made. And sold.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a fascinating look at how advertising rules the world, and at what lengths companies and ad agencies will go to spread their product’s message. Spurlock comes up with the idea of selling advertising sponsorships within his movie to fund the movie’s production. He got many rejections from his cold calls (companies like Nike, Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, Red Bull, and Ford) which made for even more amusing banter.

If you’re a documentary guru like me, you’ll instantly recognize Spurlock from his amazing Super Size Me film – ya, the one where he ate at McDonald’s 3 times a day for 30 days. Spurlock’s filmmaking has matured since Super Size Me… but at the same time, it stays infused with humour in all the right places. Like, for example, his schtick with Mane & Tail shampoo (the only shampoo for use on human hair and horse hair).

To make the film he criss-crossed the United States from New York to Los Angeles talking to everyone from film directors, writers, producers, musicians, ad executives, and of course those who he has trying to recuit as sponsors for his film. As we quickly find out, the sales pitches he’s making to companies IS the film.

POM Wonderful buys into Spurlock’s vision in a big way, becoming his main title sponsor for $1-million. Little known fact about POM Wonderful: apparently you can achieve the same effect using POM Wonderful as you can by taking Viagara. We’re not sure exactly how much POM Wonderful you’d have to drink, but it’s a curious tidbit isn’t it…

The best line from the movie (Spoken by Spurlock):  “One thing I’m glad of is that I’m not driving some piece-of-shit Volkswagen right now,” he says to the camera, unapologetically smack-talking about the car company who turned him down as he fuels up one of the seven Mini Coopers he got from Mini’s sponsorship agreement in the film.

As is true with all of Spurlock’s documentaries, he leaves the viewer asking questions and thinking about how much advertising really does play into the world as we know it.

Watch The Greatest Movie Ever Sold for a great, fun, informative look at how product placements work and how companies do their best to tell you their message with as much subtleness as possible. And hey – Morgan’s sponsors put up the $1.5 million to fund the film’s production! Even better!

– Blair

Day 60: Varsity Blues (1999)

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January 13, 2012 

Lately there’s been a whole lot of new material added to the Netflix Canada library, so you’ll have to excuse me if I can’t keep up with it all.

Varsity Blues is one of my favourite football movies. It follows the lives of a Texas high school football team as they close in on another district title. Football is a big deal in this small Texas town, as it likely is in many other U.S. high schools. At the centre of it all, is a legendary coach (Jon Voight) with an attitude of ‘win at all costs’ – including sacrificing his players along the way.

Jon Moxon (James Vanderbeek) the West Canaan Coyotes’ back-up quarterback is called upon to save the team when the star quarterback suffers a devastating knee injury. Being a hero is the very last thing Moxon had in mind for himself.

James Vanderbeek was on a summer break from filming Dawson’s Creek the year he filmed Varsity Blues. It was far and away the best of the movies made by the Dawson’s Creek kids during that time period. Katie Holmes filmed Disturbing Behavior, Michelle Williams filmed Dick (with Kirsten Dunst), and Joshua Jackson filmed The Skulls. We all know who Katie Holmes ended up marrying years later – she rarely shows up in movies anymore. James Vanderbeek has mostly disappeared as well, though he did have a guest spot in an episode of Criminal Minds a while ago.

Amy Smart, who plays Jon Moxon’s girlfriend, went on to star in movies: The Butterfly Effect and Roadtrip (both available here on Netflix Canada).

If you’re a fan of NBC’s Heroes sci-fi show, you’ll certainly recognize high school cheerleader Ali Larter.

Together these actors make Varsity Blues one of the better football movies ever made. Is it predictible? Probably. But the movie is funny without too much raunchy comedy. Yes, the movie is rated ‘R’ for language and nudity… extreme nudity in some cases. But if you don’t object to some jiggles here and there, and a bit of ‘boy bum’, the football game scenes make it all worthwhile.

Watch Varsity Blues for a fun movie with some down and dirty football action.

– Blair

Day 59: Beverly Hills 90210 (Angels We Have Heard On High)

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December 24, 2011 

If you know anything about my previous television habits, you’ll know that I was once a die-hard 90210 fan. When the show premiered in the early 1990s, I videotaped every single episode of the show from start to finish. By the time the series wrapped up five years later, I had over 220 hours of 90210 and two boxes full of VHS tapes. A few years ago when the series started to come out on dvd, I hauled those two boxes to the dump in favour of the much more storage-friendly dvd sets. Now thanks to the miracle of Netflix Canada, I can watch nearly any episode of 90210 (at least from Season 1-6) anytime I want.

And today I just happen to want to watch a Christmas-themed episode of 90210 – and yes, there have been 9 different ones over the years. Today’s episode is from Season 6, Episode 15.

For seasoned 90210 fans, this episode marked the return of the Cindy Walsh (Carol Potter), one half of the family patriarch. And in true 90210 fashion, she makes her surprise return from Hong Kong to California, just in time to catch son Brandon (Jason Priestley) in bed with his current girlfriend Susan Keates. As it turns out, all is not well between Cindy and husband Jim (still in Hong Kong). Meanwhile on Christmas Eve, Steve Sanders’ dad Rush enlists his help to deliver a couple of gifts from a high class business associate. Unfortunately, he mixes up the tags and the gift that was meant for his niece (a Holly Homemaker toy oven) was delivered to his mistress and the gift meant for his mistress (a leather bustier) was delivered to his niece. Chaos ensues.

By this time in the series, 90210 had probably run its course. A blockbuster hit when it debuted in 1990, it brought ratings to FOX in ways the network never anticipated at the time. It gained popularity during the summer of 1991, when Fox aired a special “summer season” of the show while most other series were in reruns. It was full of friends who became enemies who became friends again. Along the way Dylan (Luke Perry) cheated on Brenda (Shannen Doherty) with Kelly (Jennie Garth), Kelly cheated on Dylan with Brandon, Brandon slept with a married woman. Steve slept with Clare (and she also slept with David). Oh, and David (Brian Austin Green) cheated on Donna (Tori Spelling) with a girl from his new record label in the back of a limo. Valerie wins the award for hitching up with the most men from 90210: Dylan, Steve, Ray, Brandon, David, and Noah – in that order.

Watch Angels We Have Heard On High – fan of 90210 or not – it’s a piece of pop culture television history at its best.

– Blair

Day 58: X-Files (How the Ghosts Stole Christmas)

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December 23, 2011 

If you’re looking for something Christmasy to watch this holiday season, look no further than this episode of The X-Files (Season 5, Episode 6).

The entire X-Files series has recently been made available for streaming here on Netflix Canada, and that’s great news for people like me who watched the series faithfully but never bothered to buy the individual seasons on dvd. Yes, I had (have) the Mulder and Scully action figures, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Every X-Files fan has their favourite episodes – ones that, for them, defined the series and what it was all about. It really was the LOST of the 1990s. This particular episode wasn’t in my top ten favourites, since it lacked a lot of the serious alien mythology that the show was known for, but it was a nice break with some light-heartedness thrown in. I’ll cover some of my own favourites in an upcoming blog entry, but for now let’s get right into the popular Christmas-themed episode. This one guest stars two legendary actors: Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin.

Scully pulls up in a car beside Mulder, who has summoned her to meet him on Christmas Eve. When he explains that he’s there on a stake-out… to watch for ghosts who return every year at this time, she rolls her eyes, in disbelief that he tricked her into meeting him for some “ghost-busting”.

As Fox Mulder tells it, “Christmas 1917. It was a time of dark dark dispair. American soldiers were dying at an ungodly rate in a war-torn Europe while at home a deadly strain of the flu virus attacked young and old alike. Tragedy was a visitor on every doorstep, while a creeping hopelessness set in with every man, woman and child. But here at 1501 Larkspur Lane for a pair of star-crossed lovers tragedy came not from war or pestilence – not by the boot heel or the bombardier – but by their own innocent hand. His name was Maurice. He was a… a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth. Driven by a tragic fear of separation they forged a lovers’ pact so that they might spend eternity together and not spend one precious Christmas apart. And their ghosts haunt this house every Christmas Eve……… I just gave myself chills.”

And so, Mulder and Scully, flashlights in hand, descend on the apparently abandoned house and come across all sorts of odd happenings. Like a noise under the floor boards that turns out to be two dead bodies wearing the exact same outfits as Mulder and Scully at that moment. In the end, the agents discover that ghosts – played by Asnar & Tomlin – really do exist. Cliché, yes. But it’s an episode designed to be exactly that, since Scully has always been the first to try to debunk Mulder’s most outrageous theories using science, and he’s always believed that what can’t be explained must be real.

Ed Asner is an actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, primarily known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Lou Grant on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off , Lou Grant. He is currently starring in a Canadian television series Michael on CBC. Lily Tomlin is an American actress who has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows over the years including: The West Wing, The Simpsons, Will & Grace, Damages, Desperate Housewives, and a slew of her own comedy specials.

Watch How the Ghosts Stole Christmas for some fun and entertaining holiday viewing.

– Blair

Tell Netflix Canada What You Think…

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Written by Blair

December 21, 2011 at 5:27 am

Posted in Movies

Day 56: Christmas With The Kranks

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December 20, 2011 

When their 23-year-old daughter Blair (great name) joins the peace corp and won’t be home for Christmas, Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip Christmas and go on a Caribbean cruise instead. That decision sets in motion a backlash the likes of which they never would have expected.

Neighbours are furious at the Kranks when they cancel their annual Christmas Eve Party, skip ordering Christmas cards, blow off the Boy Scouts when they come to the door to sell them a 10 foot Canadian Blue Spruce Christmas tree… you get the idea.

A wrench is thrown into the Bah Humbug-ness when daughter Blair calls on Christmas Eve day with big news – she’s engaged to a guy she met while in the rainforest and is flying home in time for Christmas with her husband-to-be, expecting to expose him to his first traditional Christmas celebration. Suddenly the Kranks have to back peddle and do their best to jump back into the holiday season chaos before their daughter finds out that they almost avoided it completely.

Christmas With The Kranks stars Tim Allen (from TV’s long-running sitcom Home Improvement). Fans of “H.I.” will remember that Baywatch bombshell Pamela Anderson got her start in a bit part on Home Improvement. She’d probably be proud at the sight of Luther Krank coming out of the tanning salon scene wearing his skimpy Speedo.

Jamie Lee Curtis plays Luther’s wife, Nora – the slightly paranoid-about-skipping-Christmas Mrs. Krank. Curtis has had a movie career spanning decades, with starring roles alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger (True Lies, 1994). Here on Netflix Canada, you can watch her in films such as: My Girl, Halloween, Drowning Mona, Fierce Creatures, My Girl 2, and Halloween 2.

Watch Christmas With The Kranks – it won’t exactly inspire you to become a brain surgeon, but it’s a good family Christmas movie that will give you a few laughs and some feel-good moments – and we could all use more of those in our lives.

Blair

Written by Blair

December 21, 2011 at 5:15 am

Day 55: The Family Man (2000)

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December 15, 2011 

Jack Campbell is a powerful money-hungry CEO in a $3,000 suit. He thinks he’s on top of the world when his company is on the verge of a huge deal that will set him up financially for life. Thirteen years earlier, he made a decision to leave then-girlfriend Kate Reynolds (Téa Leoni) for a job in London. Both madly in love, they drifted apart because of that one decision that changed everything.

On Christmas Eve, Jack stops at a convenience store for a carton of egg nogg and ends up stepping in between the cashier and an irate customer. He thinks he’s doing a good deed, but as it turns out, his flash of kindness has bought him a glimpse of what his life would be like had he not taken the job across the pond and stayed with Kate. He wakes up on Christmas morning in a different bed, in a different house – with a wife, two kids, and a mini-van – and in a completely different life. At first he wants his money, expensive car, and designer clothes back. Pronto. Confused and convinced he’s on a permanent acid trip, he quickly discovers that his life as a big time business tycoon has made him sacrifice much of what happiness is all about.

The Family Man is a take-off of the Frank Capra story, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It stars Nicholas Cage as wealthy businessman Jack Campbell. Cage has starred in dozens of films such as: National Treasure I & II; Gone in Sixty Seconds; Knowing; and Leaving Las Vegas (which he won a Best-Actor Oscar for). Next (with the lovely Jessica Biel) and It Could Happen to You (with Bridget Fonda) are both available for instant streaming here on Netflix Canada. And as far as the six degrees of separation go, here’s a cool connection: Téa Leoni starred alongside Nicolas Cage in The Family Man, and she married actor David Duchovny. David Duchovny starred as Fox Mulder on the X-Files (also here on Netflix Canada), and Téa Leoni had a guest role in one episode of that show as well. And treasure-hunter Benjamin Gates (Cage) from National Treasure  might have loved to meet Amanda Kirby (Leoni), romping around with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park III.

As a joke, I was about to say that there isn’t a single actor in this movie from LOST, and instead we get a couple of my favourite actors – Don Cheadle and Jeremy Piven… but if you look closely during the convenience store scene, the clerk behind the counter is Ken Leung, who played Lostie Miles Straume in the latter part of the series. I tell you, these LOST actors are everywhere.

Watch The Family Man. It’s a great Christmas movie the reminds us all that life is a series of decisions; every fork in the road can skew life in a different direction.

– Blair

Written by Blair

December 15, 2011 at 4:30 am

Merry (Not Quite) Christmas on Netflix Canada

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December 14, 2011

Over the next 10 days or so, I’ll be popping into the blog to write some reviews of Christmas-themed Netflix movies – perfect flicks to catch while the regular network television shows go on hiatus until January.

The thing is, Netflix Canada doesn’t exactly have an overflowing library of Christmas movies. They did much better with their Halloween horror selection compared to what they offer for Christmas. Nevertheless, there are some, and I’ll do my best to dig up a few hidden gems for you in the coming days.

In other news, I finally got the iPad that was going on and on (and on) about when I first started this blog a year ago. It works with Netflix as though the two were invented to be paired together. It’s that damn good. I’ve just started watching Lie To Me, a television series new to Netflix Canada (and brand new to me). It’s a show that deals with facial expressions and a team that studies people to help law enforcement determine if suspects are lying or not. I’m undecided if it’s a great show or not, so look more about Lie To Me once I’ve had a chance to get further into it.

Blair

Written by Blair

December 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Day 54: The Girl in the Park (2007)

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November 6, 2011 

Fifteen years ago, Julia Sandburg (Sigourney Weaver) was an aspiring jazz nightclub singer, mother of two, and coasting along with a pretty nice life. But one day at the park, she turns her back for a moment and her daughter, Maggie, has vanished.

Fast-forward 15 years later and we pick up the story that has had many sad moments. Julia is now divorced, she’s given up singing, and she’s socially stagnant. She holds a job, but that’s about as far as the ‘good’ goes in her life. Times have been tough. We assume that Maggie has never been found – alive or dead. Then one day, Julia meets troubled Louise (played by Kate Bosworth), a down-on-her-luck teenager who looks a lot like Maggie; too much like Maggie, in fact. Suddenly Julia has hope and a little bit of happiness when she convinces herself that Louise really is the child that vanished more than a decade earlier.

This is the kind of movie that is painful to watch. Weaver and Bosworth play off one-another so well and are so convincing in their roles, there are numerous times when we wonder if Louise really is the long lost daughter. Originally The Girl in the Park was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007 and had a limited theatrical release in 2009.

Sigourney Weaver has starred in dozens of movies over the years. If you’re a younger movie-goer, you’ll know her from Avatar. More seasoned film fans (such as myself) will remember her from movies like Dave, Ghostbusters, and Aliens. Kate Bosworth starred in one of my favourite films, 21, as well as Blue Crush, Superman Returns, and Win A Date With Tad Hamilton. Keri Russell’s break-through role came in 1998 when she landed the lead role as Felicity Porter in the WB’s hit show Felicity. She has since appeared in movies: Extraordinary Measures, Waitress, August Rush, and The Upside of Anger (available here on Netflix Canada).

There were a couple of head-scratching moments in The Girl in the Park. Netflix Canada shows the rating as ‘R’ “Contains frequent sexual activity, brutality/graphic violence, intense horror, and/or other disturbing content.” But guess what – at least two scenes containing graphic violence were edited completely out of this version. When Chris is standing on the bannister changing a lightbulb in the chandelier, the scene suddenly cuts to a shot in a hospital when we learn that he had fallen and needed 60 stitches to close the gash on his head. And at the end of the movie Louise is sitting outside Julia’s door waiting for her to get home and we see that she has a black eye and other various bruises which are never explained. Completely unnecessary edits as far as I’m concerned. Small criticisms that don’t really take away from the film, but I can’t imagine a writer/director being okay with that.

Watch The Girl in the Park… and if you have kids, you’ll want to give them an extra hug tonight!

– Blair

Written by Blair

November 8, 2011 at 7:41 am

Day 53: Picture Me (A Model’s Diary)

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November 5, 2011 

It’s documentary day here on the 30flix on Netflix Canada blog – my favourite day!

The number of quality documentaries here on Netflix is staggering. And that’s a great thing. Nowhere else will you find quality story-telling on so many different topics.

Today’s choice was Picture Me (A Model’s Diary). It chronicles filmmaker  Ole Schell as he follows his girlfriend Sara Ziff’s rise to international model status over the course of 5 years.

Ziff’s discovery as a model is about as simple as could be: one day she was walking down the street in New York City and was approached by a photographer asking her if she had ever done any modelling; she hadn’t, but was intrigued with the idea. She signed with an agency, and put off going to college to pursue her dreams of modelling. She quickly discovered she was blinded by the glitz, glamour, and money she could earn. By the time she was 20, she was earning more in a year than her father. Her first major cheque from an international modeling assignment was a little over $80,000 – and the cheques kept on coming. Soon she was appearing on billboards and in fashion magazines.

Overall I liked the film, and the point that Schell was trying to convey. But the film had its clunky moments – poor camera work, sound that sort of fades in and out for no apparent reason, and the opening credits didn’t have music at all?? Despite these criticisms, there are odd moments that you never really hear about in the modelling industry that are sad. For example, one model tells the story (in tears) about a photographer who, during a shoot, asked her to take her clothes off. She complied, not being shy, but then was shocked when the photographer decided that he’d get naked too. She was 16, he was 45. Remarkably, two other models relay similar tales in other scenes throughout the film. One scene with a model talking about a very famous photographer who sexually assaulted during a shoot in Paris, was cut when the model backed out of being included in the movie at the last minute; she feared that she’d get blacklisted.

We also hear about the drugs, sleepless nights, endless parties, trends of weight and age of models – many models that are older than 23 lie about their age to compete with those coming up who are younger. When the movie was shot, the average age of runway models was anywhere between 15-19, and seemingly getting younger with each new crop of models.

The ending puts it all in perspective. Some models have a very short shelf-life while others continue on in other areas of the fashion field. Some save every penny they earn, others aren’t so wise with their money.

Ziff has become an advocate for better working conditions for fashion models. After Picture Me, Ziff produced a three-part web mini-series for the modeling blog of New York Magazine. These mini movies tackle subjects of extreme youth in modeling, lack of racial diversity on the runway, and the pressure to be thin.

Watch Picture Me if you’re looking to get a peek inside the world of high fashion modelling, both the good and the bad.

– Blair

Written by Blair

November 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Day 52: The Mothman Prophecies

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October 30, 2011 

There are supernatural forces at work in The Mothman Prophecies, and Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere) is at the very heart of the mystery. Klein has the world at his fingertips when all of a sudden, his life drastically changes overnight when his wife swerves off the road to avoid something “she saw”; later than night in the hospital she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor and rapidly deteriorates. After her death, Klein discovers a journal where she has drawn dozens of images of a bizzare winged creature, the “thing she saw” the night of the car accident. Two years later, Klein is trying to move forward with his life. He’s still a reporter, but has graduated to writing bigger and higher profile political stories. One night he leaves town, driving to Richmond, Virginia, to conduct an interview a day later, but inexplicably ends up 5 hours out of his way in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. His car loses power, and he has no memory of how he got there. This bizzare and frightening tale carries on from here… and I won’t spoil it for any of you planning to watch.

You really should go out of your way to stream this heart-pounding movie. It’s part thriller, part horror, and all suspense from the first minute to the last. At times I caught myself watching with my mouth hanging open, obviously so caught up in the story that, for a moment, I almost forgot I was watching fiction on television. But is it fiction? The film claims to be based on actual events that occurred between November 1966 and December 1967 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia – and that’s what scares me the most.

If you want to read up more on the real legend of the mothman, check out this link: http://otherplane.com/am/ammothman.htm – truly some scary stuff (real or not).

Richard Gere also starred in Red Corner (back on Day 6 here on the blog). Unfortunately, Gere doesn’t get nearly the accolades he deserves as an actor. If you haven’t gotten your Gere fix yet, try out other Netflix Canada films: The Hunting Party, The Jackal, and Intersection. Debra Messing stars as Klein’s wife, albeit for only about the first 20 minutes or so. Messing can be found here on Netflix Canada in a much kinder, gentler role in Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston.

Watch The Mothman Prophecies – but don’t watch it alone like I did… it’ll just cause unnecessary nightmares.

– Blair

 

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October 31, 2011 at 5:23 am

Day 51: Asylum

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October 29, 2011 

My new strategy for watching scary Halloween movies: watch them in the daytime. Did it work? Am I cured of my spooky movie phobia?

Nope.

So today I picked a light-hearted comedy…. wait, no I didn’t. Day 51 is a rather spine-chilling Halloween flick called Asylum. It’s the story of six college students who learn that their dorm used to be a horrific insane asylum in the 1930s, where a sadistic doctor performed numerous grisly lobotomies on his disturbed teenage patients. The ayslum sat dorment for 70 years until half of it was renovated and restored, just in time for the new school year. Unfortunately, the good doctor lives on, looking to cure those teenagers who are in pain – and, as we quickly learn, each of the six students has had some major traumatic experience in their childhood.

Fortunately for me, there was a decent build-up of story before the gore factor was stepped up – and gullible me – I actually thought this movie would gloss over the slashing, slicing and dicing. Nonetheless, it was a great little movie with enough plot to get me through to the end without me having to beg for it to be over.

Ayslum stars Sarah Roemer as Madison, perhaps the most “disturbed” college student of the bunch. If you were a fan of NBC’s The Event last season, you’ll immediately recognize her as the actress who played Leila Buchanan opposite Jason Ritter. As soon as I saw her on the screen, I breathed a sigh of relief; there’s no way they could kill off a babe like Sarah – could they?!?!?

Watch Asylum (rated R for violence, blood, guts, and brief nudity) – and try not to go crazy before it’s over.

– Blair

Written by Blair

October 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm