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Monday, April 26, 2010

How I Spent My Weekend

I don't rent movies as much as I used to. I don't know why. There was a time when I'd run out and rent any movie with a modicum of critical praise to see what cool stuff I was missing. I think the main reason why I don't rent as many movies any more is because I've got this vast library of DVDs now, so it's easier and cheaper to just watch Star Wars again. But, with this new Blu-Ray player, I thought I should break it in by renting a few Blu-Rays.

First up, in the spirit of the time when I'd rent movies on an almost weekly basis, I figured it was time to finally check out the winner of the Best Picture Academy Award for 2009, The Hurt Locker. If you haven't seen it now, the film is about Sgt. James, a US Army bomb disposal expert as he disarms bombs in Iraq and battles his own personal demons.

I found it to be pretty good. It was tense when it needed to be, provided some moments of dark comedy, and had a couple of good action scenes. And hey, Ralph Fiennes shows up! I enjoyed it, and I think it was deserving of the Best Picture Oscar.

Secondly, I rented Whip It, the tender, coming-of-age tale where Ellen Page learns who she is out on the roller derby track. There was a lot about this film that had me curious...mainly, how it was heavily hyped as the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore. Plus, a lot of Saturday Night Live fanboys and fangirls where heralding a breakout performance by Kristin Wiig.

There's a lot of good stuff in this film. It looks good. The performances are great. Even Jimmy Fallon, who I usually find more annoying than funny, was actually pretty funny as the announcer of the roller derby games. And it was great to see Daniel Stern again, playing Ellen Page's father. He was so funny, but then he kind of disappeared in the mid-90s, and now he's back, as his good ol', slightly clueless self, who you know would just love to be more supportive of his daughter, if only he weren't slightly afraid of his fierce and fighting wife.

And the soundtrack is amazing. Did I mention the soundtrack is amazing? Music that haunts me.

My only big complaint is that the plot is a fairly typical coming-of-age story. Gee, will mom actually show up to watch the big game? What do you think? Hardly any surprises in the plot, but it's all just packaged so well you can't help but love it.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Last up, I fired up the British film Pirate Radio, but I kind of like it's original British title, The Boat that Rocked. They year is 1966, and there was this growing trend in the UK of pirate radio stations. They were based on boats, anchored just off shore in international waters, and broadcast their high-powered signals to the mainland. This the story of one such station, Radio Rock, who specialized in a lot of the rock banned in England at the time. I was curious about it, because they just don't make a lot of movies about radio stations anymore.

The closest we have to a main character is Carl, a young man, just kicked out of school, sent by his mother out Radio Rock to get put to work out at the station. While there, he meets the wide assortment of personalities who man the airwaves, and learns about life, the universe and everything. Meanwhile, in a very funny subplot, Kenneth Branagh plays the stodgy old MP given the task of finding a way to shut down these pirate radio stations.

There's not much of a plot to this film...more just a series of vignettes with some outlandish radio personalities. That being said, though, I did find it quite funny and found myself laughing out loud quite a bit.

Again, I highly recommend it.

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