Tag Archives: HBO OnDemand

One blonde, two blonde

the other womanI was ready for something light and uncomplicated at the movies this weekend, so Cameron Diaz’s new film “The Other Woman” seemed like a good fit.

A revenge fantasy, three women — the wife, the girlfriend who didn’t know he was married, and the gullible mistress — join forces to take their pound of flesh from the man who wronged them all.

Is it plausible? No. But the cast sells it, and I laughed more than I thought I would.

However, if you want to see a funnier Cameron Diaz movie that was also released this weekend OnDemand, check out Gambit.

gambit-posterThis comedy has pedigree:  The Coen Brothers as screenwriters.  A cast that includes Diaz (playing an over-the-top Texas rodeo gal), Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci.  And an art heist at its center with enough misdirections and surprises to keep you guessing until the final frame.

Plus, Alan Rickman is creatively nude.

(Perhaps I should have led with that tidbit.)

Bleeding blue

My 2014 started off with a sinus infection. So while I was lying low at home, I decided to crack open one of my Christmas presents —

sixth man

The Sixth Man movie on DVD.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries of late, courtesy of HBO OnDemand, but this is the first one on a topic that I know so intimately —

Growing up a UK Wildcat fan.

The producers look at the fans from every angle, talking to current and former coaches, players, TV and radio announcers, and the fans themselves.  At times we fans appear merely passionate, other times borderline psychotic.  But as even the celebrity fans they interviewed attest, being a UK fan is more akin to religion.

The film revisits some of the pivotal games in UK history — and the fan reaction — so, of course, Christian Laettner’s fateful shot in the UK/Duke game is discussed at length (but not shown because we have all seen that damn thing enough for one lifetime).

Laettner himself appears in the documentary and apologizes for his place in UK history.

Still hate him.

Let’s go exploring

Can you believe it has been eight years since Bill Watterson stopped drawing Calvin & Hobbes?

The comic strip itself was only published for 10 years — from November 18, 1985, to December 31, 1995 — and yet somehow it feels that it was always in newspapers.

It’s that iconic.

A new documentary is now in theaters and OnDemand that examines the Calvin and Hobbes legacy:

dear mr watterson

Director Joel Allen Schroeder examines the comic strip for the phenomena that it was — artwork that was miles ahead of its neighbors on the page, and story lines that tackled issues like environmentalism, education and philosophy.

To build his case, Schroeder interviews everyone but Watterson — fans, his syndication partners, comic experts, and fellow cartoonists.  It’s very much a love fest, as they all agree on the comic strip and its creator’s instrumental role in cartooning history.

They also discuss Watterson’s controversial decision NOT to merchandise Calvin & Hobbes.

I highly recommend the 89 minute film.  It brings back great memories, gives you access to lots of Calvin & Hobbes comics, and will leave you thinking:

“I need to make a bookstore run!”

Call back

If you’ve auditioned for anything in New York City — and I have — you’ve met your fair share of casting directors. Their personalities and policies vary, but their power is undeniable.

Or it is today.

casting byThe 2012 HBO documentary Casting By, which I caught OnDemand earlier this week, was an eye-opener on the history of the director/casting director relationship in Hollywood.

The credits for casting directors that you have probably grown used to seeing on movies were extremely hard earned, and were greatly debated on films past.

And have you noticed there is no Oscar for Best Casting…although the Academy gives awards for other director-approved elements like Editing and Cinematography?

Whichever side you land on in the debate, the film will get you thinking…and no doubt respect even more the work casting directors do.

Yes, you can

Ever made fun of a beauty pageant contestant?  I know I have.

(Two words: Miss Utah.)

But here’s a beauty pageant that will have you cheering.

miss you can do itThe ‘Miss You Can Do It’ pageant, a program for girls with special needs, is the focus of an HBO documentary currently on rotation and OnDemand.

The 37 contestants, all with learning or physical disabilities, are celebrated at this annual event founded by Abbey Curran, a former Miss Iowa and the first woman with a disability to ever compete in the Miss USA pageant.

The program follows eight of the young girls as they prepare for and compete in this event.  I happened upon the show quite by accident, but I consider the show a must-see.

Everyone should feel that good and smile that much watching TV.

Matinee

One of the many advantages of a) working from home and b) having HBO is being able to watch Oscar-nominated documentaries during lunch.

Today’s featured selection:  The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossoms.

tsumani and cherry blossom posterI’ll admit that I had not heard of this film before I saw it listed on HBO OnDemand.  If perchance you haven’t either, I strongly encourage you to invest the short 40 minutes required.

Director Lucy Walker chronicles the tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, 2011.  Survivors share their stories of loss, and work together to rebuild their communities — already making progress a mere month after the storm hit.

And what are the ‘cherry blossoms’ in the title, you ask? I’ll let you watch the film and find out. 

It is a vital part of their history and culture, and one reason a tsunami could never break the Japanese people.

Silent no more

Like everyone, I was surprised by the news of the Pope’s resignation.

But how did I miss the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God?

mea-maxima-culpa-silence-in-the-house-of-god-470-75It was released in November of last year. But yesterday’s headlines from Rome brought director Alex Gibney’s film back to the forefront. It’s available on HBO OnDemand, so I’ve already watched it.

What a revelation.

Gibney examines pedophilia in the Catholic Church, beginning with the first known clerical sexual abuse at a deaf school in Milwaukee in the late 1950’s, and traces it all the way to the Vatican.

Of particular interest, the documentary documents the role Benedict played in the sex-abuse scandals — both as a bishop in Germany and as Cardinal Ratzinger, where he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles such cases.

Under his leadership, the church shielded priests accused of child molestation and hid their behavior from the authorities, obstructing criminal prosecution.

It’s not an easy film to watch, but the bravery of these deaf students — now grown men — is inspiring.

Their voices have finally been heard.

Fight club

In yesterday’s Egg, I mentioned I was looking for a fight.

Today, I found one.

I am going to defend — almost a year after it hit theatres — the critical and audience pounding of the action film Knight and Day, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

It’s available on HBO OnDemand right now.  (I assume that means it’s available on Netflix as well.)

I saw it in the theatre last summer and really liked it.  I remember being surprised that the reviews were so lackluster.  A quick visit to RottenTomatoes.com confirmed the movie was 53 percent fresh — not awful, but not great.

What was even more surprising was that the audience felt the same, judging the movie 52 percent fresh.

I’ve already watched it twice OnDemand, and I respectfully disagree.

Tom Cruise is at his action star best in this film, but the action is purposefully over-the-top, making it one of his best comedic performances.  Snaps to Tom for being willing to make fun of a genre that has been his bread and butter.

Cameron Diaz is the perfect foil for Cruise, too.  She has the energy and the presence to match him shot for shot.  Even when she is in damsel in distress mode, she is his equal on-screen.

The movie uses a lot of CGI to make the impossible possible.  Again, I found that as funny as the rest of the comedy in this film.  Maybe 48 percent of the audience members didn’t get the joke.

But you will.  I know it.

And if you don’t…we can just fight about it some more.

Bittersweet

I have watched a lot of Food Network shows in my day, especially the competition formats.

Iron Chef.  Food Network Star.  Last Cake Standing.

But they are all child’s play compared to the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsman in France) competition featured in Kings of Pastry, which  I discovered quite by accident last night on HBO OnDemand.

The 2010 documentary was directed by D A Pennebacker and Chris Hegebus, who brought us the Oscar-nominated documentary The War Room, about the 1992 presidential campaign of President Bill Clinton.

Surprisingly, Kings of Pastry is just as griping, tense and dramatic as any political campaign — maybe more so.

Becoming a M.O.F. is the pinnacle of a French pastry chef’s career, and the three-day competition is a grueling test for even the finest artisan.  The film follows Jacquy Pfeiffer, an award-winning French chef and instructor at Chicago’s highly regarded French Pastry School, as he prepares for and completes the competition.

The directors also filmed two other finalists preparing for the M.O.F.:  French chefs Regis Lazard — there for the second time after dropping his sugar sculpture and being eliminated during his first attempt — and Philippe Rigollot, the pastry chef at the renowned restaurant, Maison Pic.

The stress that the M.O.F. puts on the chefs and their families is immense.  To say there were a few tears shed is an understatement, especially by the competition judges, who seemed to live each success and failure of the 16 chefs involved.

Their final work is exacting and beautiful to behold — but I would argue the process is the true art.