Tag Archives: Amazon Instant Watch

Movies: Squid Man (****)

I picked this movie solely on the idea that it was new and looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch. Am I glad I did? Yes, on the whole but it’s not going to be for everyone.

This is a difficult one to wrap words around because it’s so many things at once. It starts out as the comedic movie you would expect. It’s not so much funny as it is sort of smirkingly amusing and in bits seems to remind one of Office Space.

About a third of the way in, the movie takes a decidedly romantic turn and all thoughts of comedy are left behind. It’s also about this time that the movie starts to have a point contrasting the man-child outlook of unmarried men with the more serious viewpoint of unmarried women. There’s a kernel of a lesson here but it’s brief and not much to look at, though colorfully enough portrayed.

The last third of the movie is primarily a super-hero action flick with scads of really bad make-up and intentionally cheesy special effects. It’s not an unpleasant sort of bad really just not a believable sort of good, if you catch my drift. I can tease an interesting lesson out of this section too as it looks at causality and the random events that rule our lives. I *THINK* this may be the main point of the movie but saying anything for sure is really a dodgy proposition in this case.

So in summary, I liked this movie and I’m on the bloody edge of recommending it but you have to be in a really open-minded mood to sit down and enjoy it. It’s just so many things and you have to be ready to accept all of them or it just won’t work. This is a movie to watch on your own when you just don’t know what to watch. Trying to watch this with anyone else will just result in annoyed glares from across the room.

PS: If you read the word ‘romance’ and are thinking, “oh, he said romance, that’ll be nice!” do not watch this movie for its romantic aspects. The last 60 seconds of the film are sufficient to leave anyone wishing for happy romance agape with disappointment. I will say nothing else in an effort to avoid spoilers.

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Loving Spoonfuls – Cooking with Grandmas (4/5)

I picked this title because it looked lonely in Amazon Instant Watch and needed a review. I’m vaguely glad I did but it wasn’t at all what I expected.

So to begin with let’s talk about what this is. Based on the description and the logo and the descriptions I expected some sort of a sit com but in fact it is a very bare-bones cooking show. Each week the host goes into the home of a grandma and they cook a meal together. All the grandmas come from well-known cultural group so there’s a Chinese grandma and a German grandma and a Southern U.S. grandma. All very diverse. Usually this is where I go into positives and negatives but that wouldn’t really help here. Instead a few random observations.

This isn’t really a recipe-driven cooking show. The recipe is generally, as with all the grandmas I’ve ever known, a bit of this and a bit of that. If you ask, “How much water did you put in?” the answer is likely to be “As much as it takes!” as if that’s the most obvious thing in the world.

The feel of this show is VERY unrehearsed, almost on the edge of unprepared. It is as honest a view of people as you can be expected to get on television. Sometimes the grandma’s are shy. Sometimes they’re visibly annoyed. Sometimes they’re flirty. This is a lot of honest-to-goodness grandma.

For the most part the host is respectful but can at times be mildly mocking and poking fun at his guests. I wasn’t terribly amused by this but he does work pretty hard at being funny.

So, in summary, if you want a cooking show with all the quiet ease of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or are just nostalgic for your own grandma, this is a good choice. Not really likely you’ll learn a ton of detailed cooking techniques but as with any grandma encounter, that’s hardly really the point.


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The evening in movies… a selection of documentaries

This evening I took a little tour, as I often do, of the newly released movies on Amazon Instant Watch. This time the new material included quite a few documentaries. I sum them up here for your perusal.



Baghdad Taxi (4/5)
As is usual, I picked this movie because it looked rather lonely and unreviewed on Amazon Instant Watch. Am I glad I did? Yes, but the whole thing makes me rather sad.

Firstly, if you are a conservative who believes that by going into Iraq that we “did them a favor” or somehow improved their lot in life then you need to look for another movie. This film is very much centered around the everyday Iraqi and the everyday Iraqi… is not happy about our presence in the region.

The overwhelming sense I got from this film was that this taxi driver could be taxi driver anywhere. Sure, he drove past lots of dunes and mosques but those could have easily been mountains and grain silos. As much as we want to assert our American uniqueness, we’re really not all that different. Forgive me if my liberal viewpoints are showing but no matter where you go in the world we’re not all that different. The only way you can tell one region of the world from another is that sometimes the green rectagonal highway signs are in Arabic.

You will no doubt get something different from this film but the grand takeaway for me is that go wherever you will in the world, people are people. The reactions of people in the street in Iraq after being invaded are no different from those in Atlanta, Georgia. Neglecting the difference in language they say the exact same things and ultimately all they want is to have their country back. It’s an enlightening illustration of the human species.



Ukranian Brides (4/5)
I picked this movie because it was very newly released and looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch. Am I glad I did? Yeah, really I am.

So when I started this movie I expected the standard cliches: Creepy desperate dudes seeking desperate women for love and marriage. That’s not exactly what I got. Yes, there were creepy dudes who were well past their prime. And yes, they were looking for atrociously young Eastern Block women to get married to. The women though… they were surprisingly cagey and knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to say, “um, no. Go away” despite the fact that they might be going home to a cardboard box.

On the positives and negatives of the film, this was a really revealing portrait of the way guys think. The beginning is classic male-human thinking. They’re all sitting around a big notebook full of women and just picking based on appearance alone. That is *SO* Homo Sapien male that it’s not even funny. This movie has a lot of hidden truths to reveal about the way both women and men think about relationships. The other interesting thing to watch out for is the hidden expressions of the women involved. One minute they’re bright, happy, engaged and the next their faces reveal utter and complete boredom and disinterest as if they’d rather be anywhere else.

To the negative, the one thing that stands out for me is the lack of a final status update on the couples involved. The summary says that there are three couples but really for most of the video it’s two guys who are out to find wives. I won’t spoil anything for you but at the end things… wrap up … but there’s no final statement of “3 years later they were all hit by an asteroid” or whatever to let you know how these couples worked things out or didn’t. It’s rather a letdown because now I’ll never know.

In summary, this is a good movie to watch with a significant other and one that will cause endless conversation. It’s not quite everything you could want in such a film but it is brief, to the point and does reveal quite a bit about the way men and women approach long-term relationships.



Muti Murders (3/5)
I picked this title only because it looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch and in need of a review. Am I glad I did? Not especially.

The nutshell view of this is that it’s a documentary covering Muti murders, a ritualistic African practice of human sacrifice in an attempt to appease the Gods or the tribal ancestors. The movie covers an intriguing topic but it is incredibly graphic. If you watch this, you will see photos of children who have been beheaded and their heads will be right next to the body staring back at you. This is not a movie for the timid.

To the positive, this movie covers an important topic. This is serious business and several murders of this sort happen every month. It’s a real problem and it can be hoped that by exposing them through this movie we can contribute to putting a stop to the practice.

On the negative side, as I said, the whole thing is periodically very, VERY graphic. If that’s what you’re looking for then I guess you’ve found it. Also, vastly secondary to the disembodied heads on display, the documentary seems rather over-produced with lots of rather vapid transitions and spooky bumper music. It’s somewhat distracting at the least.

In summary…. yeah, I said it all above. An important message but one that turns the viewer’s stomach.


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Les Gars (The Notorious Guys) – An amusing one-third of a movie (3/5)

I picked this movie because of the pleasant yellow cover and the fact that it looked rather lonely on Amazon Instant watch and in need of an impartial review. Am I glad I did…? yes, mostly.

To categorize this one it’s basically in line with a Beavis and Butthead or a Wayne’s World or Bill and Ted. Crazed misfit dudes go on a bizarre adventure and do some completely random crap. That about sums it up and if you don’t like the idea of that then you won’t like the movie.

On the positive side, the movie starts out really well. They regularly break the fourth-wall by talking to the audience and even go so far as to spoof about playing specific music just to get the royalties for it. Their madcap hijinks are absurdly random as they bully a downspout (yes, that aluminum thing that carries water from your gutters to the ground) and there is, of course, the obligatory self-pleasure scene. It’s perplexingly random to be sure.

To the negative, all the best parts of the movie are in the first 30 minutes. So is this movie worth starting? yes. Is it worth finishing? Probably not. So I’d suggest that if this is at all appealing to you then start it up and the moment that it seems to drag (which it will) then turn it off and watch something else. I’ve watched it to the painful end so there’s no need for you to. Another negative aside from the slow story slide is that it’s very hard to pay attention to the highly visual humor and read subtitles at once. So be prepared for some visual gymnastics.

In summary, as I said, start this movie then stop it. Do not watch it all the way through. Enjoy the girl in the bikini bouncing on the trampoline and the introductory classroom scenes and then go do something else when you’ve had enough. It’s an amusing concept but not an hour+ worth of amusing concept.


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Where were you? Events that Changed the World – Very easily digested tidbits from history (4/5)

I picked this particular bit of video because it looked lonely on Amazon Instant watch and in need of a review. Am I glad I did? Yeah, mostly.

This short-lived series is a collection of mini-documentaries covering momentous events in world history from 1945 through 2004. Each event gets 24 minutes of coverage that runs something along the lines of a 4-minute introduction to the event, then 20 minutes in which the history is put into historical context. So for the moon landings we start out in the 60s for the intro, then we go back 100 years to the pioneers of rocketry and then work our way back up to the 60s again.

On the positive side, the episodes assume you know absolutely nothing about the event in question. They start from the basics of “This is the moon” and work you quickly back up to the importance of the event in question. I’m also impressed that the series does not take an America-centric view on history. It does have a preference for the Western Hemisphere but every continent at least gets a mention in some episode.

To the negative side, the production value of some of these episodes is atrocious. The incidental music sounds like something from a royalty-free website of music clips. It’s distractingly bad most of the time and almost worth muting the TV and turning on captions. (Sadly there are no captions) Further, the video is all period footage which is to be expected but something has happened in the translation that introduces very tight waves that creep in and out of the playback. Lastly, the introductory vignettes and the bumper graphics between commercials all seem to have been left in. So in any one episode you see the same video of a dirigible about 10 times.

In summary, these are neat and easily digested tidbits of history if you can put up with the production problems. Probably something to show the kids so they know what in the world grandma and grandpa are talking about when they go on about World War II or the JFK assassination.


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Negotiate Your (freelancing) Income to Six Figures – Possibly good information wrapped in terrible writing (2/5)

As usual I didn’t pay for this book but instead received it for free in exchange for a review. True to that promise, I give my scrupulously honest opinions below.

So the description of the book doesn’t give an outline or table of contents, so I’ll do that for it.

Section I – Introduction – 10% – Why do you need this book, lots of personal tidbits from the author, promotion of other products by the same author.

Section II – General Knowledge – 20% – Definition of terms, basics of negotiation

Section III – Negotiating Skills – 15% – Description of various strategies for negotiations and how to use them correctly and pitfalls to avoid.

Section IV – Applications of negotiating skills in niche writing – 25% – Basically, what to negotiate for with the skills from section III. Compensation, time off, kill fees, etc

Section V – Potential mistakes, dishonest negotiators and other associated problems – 10% – What do do if things go wrong and how to tell when they’re going wrong.

Section VI – Case studies – 15% – A set of really vanilla examples of negotiations.

Section VII – Selective resources – 5% – Basically just random tips.

Hopefully that all adds up to 100%. Looking at that, it would seem this is a very well-rounded book that covers a lot of the bases and on the surface you would be right. It has a lot of very good information in it. The part that made it lose so much esteem in my eyes was the writing itself.

Firstly, on this point, the writing is so soft and airy and almost bubbly that it borders on unprofessional. Further, it seems at times that the writer is a non-native speaker of the English language and things come out a bit garbled. I’ll present a few examples to illustrate my point and you, my own humble readers, can judge for yourself. The items below are direct quotes from the book and are checked scrupulously for accuracy. Please note too that these are just the problems that leap out at me in a quick skimming of the text. They are not exhaustive but merely representative.

[Addressing the reader directly]

“You are one of the few creative people who will succeed in business and in personal life and turn everything you touch into gold.”

[Addressing the reader directly]

“You are a special person with an inspirational personality…”

[Typos, spelling and grammar problems abound]

“… the healthy compromise involves one party giving up his/her interests in one area in order to gain interests in another area, and visa versa”

“… will even prefer to lose rather than preventing his counterpart to solve his problems…”

“… if possible they like to ‘put their head in a sand’…”

“If your counterpart able to trust you…”

“Do not sign anything that you yourself are not clear about it’s meanning”

I won’t go on because I don’t want it to seem that I’m picking on the author but clearly this book needs some additional work. It seems like a great idea and may convey some critical information but it falls well short of professional at this time. If you buy a copy, do so with the knowledge that you’re going to have to wade through some pretty spotty writing.


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You’re in Charge – Probable Cult Classic (4/5)

I picked this movie just because it seemed lonely on Amazon Instant Watch and I’m glad I did because this could be the next Officespace or Napoleon Dynamite.

If I were to sum up this movie…. it would be fairly impossible. It’s a multi-threaded tale that includes, among other things:

* A gritty, sloppy home-birth with multiple husband slaps

* An ex-con who fancies himself a doctor of holistic medicine

* A manic gardener who has plans for a placenta

* A mumbling creole home remodeling company

As if all these basic themes aren’t enough, the movie is infinitely quotable.

* “People are like teabags. You never know how strong they are until you put them into hot water”

* “So, you’re asking me to fire myself?”

* “We need ebola; we need the plague, that’s how viral we have to go right now”

* “You had the baby! Would you put the gun down?!!?”

In summary, Amazon calls this a comedy and I can’t really categorize it any other way, but I’d add the word “quirky”. It’s not the sort of film that makes you laugh out loud so much as it makes you say, “um, wow.” after it’s over. This is one that’s probably funnier the second time through. And the third. And the fourth. Ad infinitum.


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Detroit Unleaded – Wonderful slice of Arab culture in romance form (5/5)

I picked this movie because it’s newly out on Amazon Instant Watch and it looked lonely and in need of a review. I’m glad I did.

The story starts rather tragically with the violent death of the patriarch of a Lebanese-American family. Now, the son is forced to put all his own plans on hold and stay behind to run the family business instead. Anything more than that would constitute a spoiler so there I stop with plot-summary.

To the positive side, the story is a great allegory for being who you are, and pursuing your dreams despite the expectations put on you by others. Further, I’m a cultural xenophile so I was extremely entertained by the details of Arab-American culture and the interplay between that and the larger urban culture of Detroit. It’s also amusing to see the complex role of the neighborhood gas station in an area. In short, this was a great slice of urban ethnic anthropology. If nothing else you can love it for that along with the strong visual symbolism.

To the negative… this isn’t really a complaint I had but I could imagine that some might be concerned that there’s not really a lot of movement either in plot or in character in this movie. The entire action could have taken place in a day and the characters don’t evolve so much as suddenly come to their senses.

In summary, a great little film to watch with someone special. It has enough tidbits to keep the viewer entertained, a few small laughs along the way and a hopeful and uplifting outcome. Great film.


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A Man Called Hero – Amusing enough if you have the right frame of mind (4/5)

I picked this movie because it looked lonely on Amazon Instant Watch. At first I had my doubts but by 20 minutes in I was glad that I did.

So this is a multi-generational revenge/drama/romance film. Some innocent people are killed, a son goes in search of revenge in America. We don’t hear much about it until his own son shows up in America almost two decades later. Eventually fighting and the standard expected stuff ensues.

On the positive side, this is a martial arts film rife with all the standard soft of action you’d expect in such. It should be noted that this is primarily a family drama and not all that much action. I’d say it’s 80% family drama and 20% combat. it’s really, really cheesy combat but combat none the less. The real joy of this film comes from seeing all the stereotypical portrayals of Americans as viewed from the standpoint of the Chinese. They’re not all QUITE walking around in spurs and chaps but they certainly do dress alike.

To the negative, some of the scenes are just ill-constructed. I’m talking Power Rangers bad here. Early on we get a glowing-red obviously plastic sword that really steals a scene or two and it is an effort to suspend disbelief. Other fighting scenes are similarly laughable but that’s all part of the fun.

In summary, this is a good one to sit down with and not take too seriously early on. The story’s not half bad; you just have to decide to focus on the parts that amuse you and not the parts that are terrible.


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Mourning (Soog) – A thought-provoking movie out of Iran (4/5)

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This title was added to Amazon’s Instant Watch collection only a couple of days ago. It’s free to Prime members so it’s certainly worth the money.

As usual I picked this movie only because it looked lonely in Amazon Instant watch and needed a nice review. I’m glad I did because it was a surprisingly deep little title.

When I read the description all I saw was the words “tragic secret” and immediately decided to start the movie without further inspection. That added a nice air of mystery to the whole thing as the first 20 minutes are a bit perplexing even if you do happen to read the whole description of the movie. They illustrate wonderfully, in a visual way, the barriers of communication that are pervasive throughout the whole thing.

This movie is not an action-packed thrill-ride but instead the entire plot, such as it is, plays out in the span of a few hours. The trio drives to Tehran through some pretty scenic country and manages somehow to communicate with each other only unintentionally as the secrets they’re trying to keep leak out. I can’t really say much more without risking a spoiler so I leave the rest to your imagination.

In summary, this is the sort of movie that makes you think and spawns conversations. It’s not the sort that blows your shorts off or makes you squirt milk out of your nose in laughter. It’s tragic, dark and… one can’t even really say hopeful. Worth a watch if you’re in the right mood to have your brain stirred up a bit. Oh, and bear with the first 20 minutes. The audio is not hopelessly out of sync and the video is not broken. All will become clear to you.


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