Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Friday, December 08, 2006

New Weekly Feature : Hidden Movie Gems (For My Netflix-Subscribing Friends)

A great deal of the people that I call friends are folks who have settled down and are in the process of raising young children. With work, home, and offspring raising dominating their time, attempting even the simple pleasure of hitting the local multiplex for a movie becomes a more difficult operation to stage than the invasion of Normandy. As a result, most of the movies they do get to see are at home, courtesy of Netflix or, if they are still in the technological equivalent of the Neolithic period**, Blockbuster.

** - Certainly not intended as a slam, as I am quite the technology Luddite. I don’t even have a radio in my car.

However, choosing movies, once you’ve made it through the usual suspects of major releases and word-of-mouth indie favorites, can become difficult. There was an exchange in the short-lived animated TV series “The Critic” that summed up the predicament:

Mike (truck driver that looks and sounds like Sean Connery): “If only there were people who’s job it was to see movies, and could separate the good from the bad...they could raise a bodily appendage skyward toward the heavens if it’s good, or dangle it downward if it’s bad....”

Critic: “You mean like ‘Thumbs Up’ or ‘Thumbs Down’?”

Mike: “That would work, too...”

Luckily, folks, I can provide this service, though (mercifully) minus the raised or dangling bodily appendages.

Between 1985 and 2005, I saw an average of 100-125 movies a year in the theater alone (I love, love, love going to the movies), with additional movies viewed via VCR and HBO. As a service to you, friends, I will point out a movie a week that might otherwise be overlooked.First, though, I will offer a couple of tips for selecting a movie via reading the DVD package:

1. Look for notable critics’ recommendations. If highest-profile endorser the movie has is Joe Shlabotnick from KJWC-TV in Casper, Wyoming, it is more likely the said endorser was only trying to get his name in print.

2. While most of what critics actually say in endorsements is, in my experience, not very important, there are a few phrases that should raise concerns:

“It’s (movie title) Meets (movie title)!!!”

This usually means “It’s Oil Meets Water!!!” or “It’s Bill Clinton Meets Intern!!!”. Usually a mixture that doesn’t work and/or you don't want to see.

“I Laughed!!!” or “I Cried!!!” or “I (emotional response)ed!!!”

Thank you for that extra-special glimpse into your life. These would only be helpful if for bad movies we could see quotes like “I Checked My Watch Repeatedly!!” or “I Left My Seat To Go For Popcorn Halfway Through And Didn’t Feel Compelled To Go Back!!!”

“Keanu Reeves’ Most Emotionally Demanding Performance Yet!!” or “Andrew McCarthy’s Most Emotionally Demanding Performance Yet!!”

Akin to saying "Paris Hilton's Most Intelligent Thought Yet!!!". Considering how low the bar is set, it means, at best, that the actor has added a second or third facial expression to the one or two already in his repetoire.

3. When reading the description of the movie, if the term “erotic thriller” appears anywhere at all, place the DVD box down and back away slowly. "Erotic Thriller" = "Sleazy And Boring"

OK, the first gem, of recent vintage:

Brick (2005)

Easily the best movie I have seen this year. A serpentine detective story with all the classic film noir archetypes present: the hard-boiled gumshoe, the damsel in distress, the femme fatale, the drama queen (in this case, literally), the underworld kingpin and his volatile hired muscle, the brainy secret operative....

The twist? The story is set in a suburban California high school. And it works beautifully. The setting makes the environment in which the story takes place even more insular than if the movie was about adults, and even provides for a few light comedic touches.

The only difficulty with the film is that the lingo can sometimes be semi-cryptic. Although the context usually aids in understanding the meaning of a term, I’ll supply a few definitions here:

Bulls- cops; e.g., "What first, tip the bulls?"; also, as a verb, to turn over to the cops; e.g., "I bulled the rat."

Copped- stole; e.g., "She copped the junk."

Dose- to take drugs; e.g., "He dosed off the bad junk and it laid him out."

Duck soup- easy pickings.

Heel- to walk away from (, and show your heels to); e.g., "I'm not heeling you to hook you."

Gat - gun

Scape- a patsy to take the blame (abbrev. of "scapegoat").

Scraped- begged off of, cadged from; e.g., "Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it off [name]..."

Shamus- a private detective.

Shine- to wield (as with a weapon); e.g., "He shines a blade."

Sprang- originated; e.g., "His gat sprang from Tugger's gang."

Yeg – guy

Enjoy. If you see this movie, please let me know what you think.


  • Thanks, but I think the next time I'm looking for something to watch, I'll pass on the two Netflix movies sitting on top of my TV and just watch the ND-'Bama hoops game on Tivo again. I'm still waiting for ND to block out *anyone*, but hanging 99 points on the #5 team in the country is always fun...


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, December 09, 2006 10:03:00 PM  

  • Agreed on the ND-Bama game. That was the most fun I've had watching an ND basketball game in years. No guys playing for draft position (I'm looking at you, Chris Thomas), no one guy having to play one on five while the other four guys stand around watching (ND offense, Jan.-Mar. 2006), no watching Mike Brey's hairline visibly recede from lack of big-man production.....just a bunch of guys who actually seem to be enjoying themselves playing basketball.

    Still, though, if you should ever tire of repeated viewings of the best ND team since 2003, give "Brick" a view. Good stuff.

    By Blogger Jerry, at Monday, December 11, 2006 12:22:00 PM  

  • I'm adding it to my list of Blockbuster rentals. I have not made it into the Netflix age.

    By Blogger Tom, at Tuesday, December 12, 2006 4:43:00 PM  

  • I laughed. I cried. I got annoyed by the damaged DVD which kept skipping.

    I am not a movie critic, but I'd give it a one on the binary scale. Good flick.

    Thanks Jerry.

    By Blogger Tom, at Saturday, December 16, 2006 11:27:00 AM  

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