What We’re Watching – 6/15/11

On the Netflix:

I recently went on a kick of watching 90s films that I hadn’t seen in a long time. The most pleasing of these was Angus (1995), a great coming-of-age film that has never had a proper DVD release (you can now get it through the Warner Archive). I was ecstatic to see it available for streaming on Netflix. The battered VHS copy my college roommate owned never left our rotation for long, and it used to be on TV quite a bit, but I hadn’t seen it anywhere in years. This film really holds up. Charlie Talbert gives a touching debut performance as the title character, an overweight freshman in high school whose life seems dominated by a long-standing mutual hatred with football star Rick Sanford (James Van Der Beek, also in his first film role), and a crush on the beautiful, popular girl Rick dates, Melissa (Ariana Richards). It’s a fairly typical set-up, but the greatness of the film lies in the details and the execution: Angus’s dialogue with his best friend, the tiny, red-headed Troy; the repeated advice of “Screw ’em” that he receives from his curmudgeon of a grandpa, played by George C. ‘effin Scott; the way things play out with Melissa when he realizes that he doesn’t really know her. It hits great notes of comedy and drama, and deserves to be counted among the top teen movies.

What have I watched on Netflix streaming that wasn’t so great? Well, in response to announcements that Salt 2 is in the works, I decided to finally watch that first Angelina adventure. Hoo boy, what a mess of a film. I would love to see a good action franchise starring a woman, in the Bond/Bourne tradition…but people, we’ve got to have a good first film first. Start over. Find another role for Angie, where I can trust a little bit that anything her character does might be the right thing to do, or at least make a modicum of sense. Fun action sequences or not, this script is just an embarrassment to everyone who worked on it or agreed to see it realized. Every twist is that worst of double sins: a cliché that also ignores the logic of anything that has come before it. We all deserve better than another round of this.

On my TV:

Top Chef Masters finale tonight! I don’t like this version as much as the original, but Curtis Stone has grown on me as a host (damn that accent and those twinkly eyes), and I’ve quite enjoyed the rabid competitive attitudes so many of the contestants have this season. It’s the fascination of watching people channel that competitive drive that keeps me devoted to the Top Chef franchise; I don’t really watch cooking shows, on the grounds that since I can’t taste what they’re making, there’s no point. But these kinds of personalities (and personality clashes) provide all sorts of other entertainment. So in that competitive spirit, let me say—go, Mary Sue! Kick their asses!

Until next time—what have you been watching?

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Brandi is one of those people who worries about kids these days not appreciating black and white films. She also admires great moments of subtlety, since she has no idea how to be subtle herself.

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