Tag Archives: movies

Three Netflix watch instant movies that have helped keep me sane

We’re into day six of being past-due, my friends. My mom had to go back to Chicago yesterday and even gulping down castor oil on my birthday did not do the trick. I am housing one stubborn baby and/or have the most comfortable Steve Urkle uterus (because that’s basically what a preggo belly is, right?) for a baby to hang out in. Sigh. I’m getting an induction massage this afternoon – fingers crossed!

Do know that I recognize I am being a total brat complaining about this, because it’s much less scary to be overdue than had I gone into labor months prematurely.

Anyhow, what’s a beached whale of a lady to do (when not watching fireworks at the Iowa Cubs game, or sitting in her lawn in a zero gravity chair) whilst waiting? We’ve been watching some instant Netflix movies lately and I figured I’d let you in on which ones in case you’re also experiencing ennui.



There was a little buzz here about this movie when it came out because it’s supposed to revolve around the Iowa State Fair Butter Sculpture. It’s actually pretty darkly-funny and not family appropriate at all. It namechecks some Iowa things, which makes me smile. I was surprised by the big-name actors in what seems to have been a pretty low-budget film, but they appeared to have a blast making it!

The Giant Mechanical Man


My watch-alone guilty pleasure show is “The Mindy Project” (it’s seriously hilarious) and this movie stars Chris Messina from that show and Jenna Fischer from “The Office.” Also, Topher Grace is in it and I kind of love him. It’s a pretty slow, predictable movie (IMDB summary: An offbeat romantic comedy about a silver-painted street performer and the soft spoken zoo worker who falls for him) aside from enjoying the actors in it, but I thought it was a nice enough little film.

Safety Not Guaranteed


This movie features another Mindy Project cast member, Mark Duplass, and Aubrey Plaza from “Parks  & Rec.” It’s quirkier (Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel) and sweet.

For movie reviews from someone who actually knows what the hell he’s talking about, let me direct you to my friend Nick Renkoski’s blog. He’ll help you spruce up your queue in no time!


Filed under At home, movies/art

Des Moines date-in-a-box: Retro roadtrip

Time to don some Wayfarers and your favorite Hill Vintage dress, hop in the DeLorean (or, a hatchback will do) and head East! This date night brings the fun of the fifties to your backseat. Whether you’re dating a Sandy or a Rizzo (hey-o!), who can resist a drive-in double feature?

© Time Inc.via Life Magazine photo archive

Your destination: The Valle Drive-In in Newton. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to the Valle Drive-In, but I do have a fuzzy recollection from when Joe and I first started dating of how fun it was to pack lawn chairs and sleeping bags and go on a little mini road-trip together. It’s about 45 minutes to Newton, and the movies start at dusk, so you probably aren’t going to get home at a decent hour, if you see both shows. Bonus points if you put together a fun mix for the ride. The last song should probably be “Wake Up Little Suzy,” by The Everly Brothers. Feel free to leave other driving-to-the-drive-in song suggestions in the comments!

To eat: I’m pretty sure you can bring your own food to the Drive-In, but if you want to eat in Newton and keep with the classic kind of theme, there’s a Maid-Rite on 1st. Ave., just about 4 miles from the movie. (Confession: You guys might revoke my Iowa card right here and now, but I’ve never been to a Maid-Rite, nor have I had one of their famous loose-meat sandwiches. Can you believe it?)

I think we’ll be packing up our Passat for a night at the Valle Drive-In this summer. I might just experience my first Maid-Rite, too. Then I’ll be a true Iowan. A belated Des Moines-iversary trip to Newton in June sounds like the perfect way to celebrate FIVE YEARS of living in this great state.

This is part of a series of Des Moines-area date suggestions for lazy lovers (of friends!) who need a plan!

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True/False film fest recap

The True/False Film Fest in Columbia is like homecoming weekend for liberal arts and journalism majors. Instead of tailgating and a football game, it’s all about buskers and documentaries. I’d never turn down a crisp fall afternoon at my alma mater, but the spring film fest crowd is more my scene.

photo from Bully Q&A via Lucy Hewitt

We got down to Columbia on Friday night and in the span of less than 48 hours, we saw eight films. This is by no means a comprehensive recap, but I’ll let you know what we saw in case you’re looking to spice up the documentary section of your Netflix queue:

Queen of Versailles — From the description, I was worried this would be a vapid portrayal of the super rich. The filmmaker set out to chronicle the construction of the country’s largest private residence, but the 2009 financial crisis added unexpected depth to the storyline. The film does show some pretty ridiculous consumerism, but it also gets down to the truth of money’s inability to buy happiness (or good taste!), the psychology of greed and how not even the 1% came out unscathed.

Gypsy Davy — This movie chronicles the filmmaker’s deeply personal quest to understand who her father was and why he abandoned his family (families, really) for Flamenco music. How much of ourselves do we owe our children after we bring them into the world? How do our parent’s paths help us make sense of ourselves? Also, after watching this movie, I will never hear the Counting Crows song Mr. Jones in the same way again.

<Title redacted> There were a number of “Secret Screenings” of documentaries that haven’t yet had their official premiere. The T/F fest organizers asked everyone to abide by a code of silence as to what the films were, and I’ll honor that. In short, it was like this trip, but seen through the eyes of a boy under the age of 10.

¡Vivan las Antipodas! — If human beings packed a satellite with information about Earth and shipped it off in the hopes it would be picked up by some other intelligent life, this is the movie they should include. The documentary felt like being inside of a National Geographic magazine, with breathtaking visuals of four antipodes (places diametrically opposite each other on the planet.) The cinematography was unbelievable, and there were moments of quiet humor and heartbreak, too. The oppositeness of some of these parallel places was striking, but the strange similarities were more so. Joe and I both would have awarded this movie the best of the fest (that we saw), even though it was so hard to compare them, since everything was very different. Filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky won the “True Vision” award at T/F this year, but unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to track this film down because it’s not on DVD or anything.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope — This was by far the most lighthearted of the films we saw. Directed by Morgan Spurlock (although this movie doesn’t feature him at all), it follows some pretty likable geeks through the annual Comic-Con excitement. The tension comes from how genuinely these people want to be a bigger part of this fantasy/sci-fi world, and how the convention is evolving into more of a pop culture phenom than simply a celebration of comics. The crowd was super into this one, especially since a local guy is featured as one of the main characters and a few scenes were shot in Columbia.

Detropia– Go inside the crumbling walls of a city and see for yourself the challenges that globalization, race relations and sprawl have heaped upon Detroit. The retired schoolteacher/ nightclub owner in this movie was one of the smartest and most entertaining characters in any of the films we watched.

The Island President — Will climate change submerge the Maldives? This movie follows Mohamed Nasheed, the island nation’s president (who was recently deposed) in his brave attempt to bring about real change at the Copenhagen summit. Nasheed is a political prisoner turned president turned global gadfly whose compassion and tireless work for his people is admirable, even against insurmountable odds.

Bully — Kids cruelty to other kids, up close and personal. Hardly an eye in the packed house was dry after this movie, which hit home a lot more than many of the other issues. Families (one of them in Sioux City, Iowa), grapple with how to protect their kids, and with suicides prompted by the torment of their peers. This is a must-see for educators, parents and anyone who works with kids. Currently, it’s rated R, due to foul language and violence (coming from the mouths and at the hands of pre-teens), but this movie would be a great conversation starter for families. You can sign an online petition to get the rating reduced to PG-13.

We didn’t see everything (full list here), but that’s my recap from the eight we did get to watch!

What’s your favorite documentary?

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That’s more like it, Iowa winter

The snow started melting in big glops on this sunny Monday, but over the weekend I got a picture of the house laced in white.

I love our little hippo house, with its rooster weather vane, eyebrow windows and snout-like porch.

We spent the weekend overnight babysitting for our niece. I was nervous, but aside from Caroline eating a tiny corner of “Baby Make Me Breakfast,” all went well.

Speaking of devouring books: Are you reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy yet? I practically missed Downton Abbey last night because I was so engrossed in the second book. I could hardly fall asleep later, my heart was pounding so hard after finishing it!

If you look closely at my snowy stoop, you’ll probably notice the weekend also involved Netflix. We watched 50/50 and I cried (although my emotional spectrum is kind of like the one the actress Kristen Bell describes on Ellen in this hilariously adorable clip of her sloth-related meltdown), but I liked it. It’s not exactly uplifting, but I’ve had a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt since his Third Rock from the Sun days. Sans the long hair. The dialogue is realistically awkward and funny, which I appreciated.

I love a lounge-y weekend now and again.


Filed under At home