Friday, March 9, 2012

Guest Review(s): The Latest from ElfFlix

By the Boiler Room Elves

Along with the majority of people on the planet, the Boiler Room Elves have been on the verge of cancelling their ElfFlix subscription. Before doing so, however, we decided to nestle in for three nights and get our money’s worth.

The first evening, naturally, we watched Gnomeo & Juliet. There’s nothing quite like watching the great gnome actors at work. Truly, they are masters of the craft. But we digress. We are happy to report that Gnomeo & Juliet was light-hearted entertaining fare. (We’d warn you about spoilers, but we’re guessing that you, too, can assume that no modern children’s cartoon is going to end the with 6 corpses littering the celluloid. There is one death, in a duel, but, it’s really kind of funny.) Gnomeo generally follows the classic tale of star-crossed lovers from different gardens. And although it takes some liberties with the plot line, the elements of Shakespeare are all there. In fact, if you know your Bard, keep your eyes peeled for plenty of enjoyable hidden references.

One of the major plusses for Gnomeo, particularly in light of it being a modern children’s tale, is that it did not fall into the trap of including heavy-handed liberal messages. It’s refreshing to see a movie aimed at elflings that not only sets out just to entertain, but to introduce them to the wider world of literature and does so without any sort of indoctrination. With great music by Elfton John and Lady Elf Elf, we Elves can heartily endorse this one.

The next evening we watched a little documentary called Being Elfo, err, excuse us -- Being Elmo. This was an uplifting story about following your dreams and finding success in doing what you love. It tells the life story of Kevin Clash, the man behind the Elmo muppet from Sesame Street. (We know, we know, Sesame Street does the exact opposite of Gnomeo in terms of liberal dogma, but just put that aside for a few minutes.)

Clash grew up poor in Baltimore and was fascinated by what he saw on Sesame Street. As a child, he was already building his own puppets and making up stories with them. As a teen, he endured the ridicule of his peers. But he stuck to it, because he had a talent and a passion for it. Eventually he finds his way to Captain Kangaroo and then to NYC and Jim Henson.

Clash ended up with the Elmo muppet when another puppeteer was tired of it and couldn’t make a workable personality for Elmo. Clash realized that Elmo needed to embody love. Hence, as a forever-3-year-old, Elmo loves nothing better than hugs and kisses. And the world responded in droves.

Ok, fair warning, there is a clip in which the grand Lady O appears. (Ugh.) But there are also wonderfully touching scenes such as when a Make-A-Wish child comes to the set because her wish was to meet Elmo. This had even the hardest, boilerroom-iest of us Elves in tears. The politics of Sesame Street really do not come out in this documentary, and if you can leave it aside, you’ll find a great story about believing in yourself and love.

On the third night, we finished watching Lilyhammer, which is ElfFlix’s first foray into making its own programming. It’s a show about a mobster who goes into the witness protection program and manages to get sent to Norway. (Ahhh, the sweet winters of the north!) We’ve seen people raving about what a “conservative” show it is. We wouldn’t go that far - it does paint a horrifying picture of life in a state-controlled, socialist country, and our hero does exemplify the American free-wheeling, can-do attitude. But ultimately, are our conservative ideals flagrant disrespect of society and law, blackmail, coercion, womanizing, and theft? We thought not. Still, that didn’t stop us Elves from wishing Tony Soprano would just show up and take care the problems in his own special way.

So now, back to the real question - to keep ElfFlix or not? Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous price hikes, or take arms and by cancelling end them. . . to die, to watch no more. . .

50 comments:

ScottDS said...

Despite their recent blunders, I remain a loyal Netflix subscriber (this is my 10th year with them!). I only wish HBO and the other premium channels wouldn't be so closed-minded about it. I can see why HBO wouldn't want to put new episodes of, say, Game of Thrones on there but give us some older stuff! The Larry Sanders Show is on there but I'd love to see Dream On and some of the kid stuff I grew up with, like Encyclopedia Brown.

Kevin Clash, in addition to playing Elmo, also played this cute character, well-known to 90s pop culture aficionados.

And, yes, they're doing a Gnome sequel, this one titled Sherlock Gnomes.

Looks like the game's a(little)foot. :-)

tryanmax said...

Um, I'm piggybacking on a family-member's account, so I'll probably stick with Netflix as long as they do. Actually, even though their movie selection is crap, I've found a lot of TV shows that I'm interested in. That said, if I had to do without Netflix, I'd probably get by just fine with standard Hulu.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for the article BRE! Sadly, I'm not as enamored of Gnomeo. I thought it had it's moments, but it struck me as a little too "paint by numbers."

I am very interested in seeing Elmo though. :)

I've heard good things about Lillyhammer, but haven't seen it yet.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sherlock Gnomes... LOL! I like the title. And on Gnome, I thought it opened brilliantly. It's just after that it became rather flat -- though the frog is hilarious!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I suspect a great many people are doing that.

Doc Whoa said...

I've enjoyed "Lillyhammer" a good deal. It's not nearly as good as "Sopranos" but it's entertaining watching him do his thing in such an uptight liberal world.

Doc Whoa said...

The "Being Elmo" thing sounds interesting. I never really thought about the real people behind it and I find it fascinating that someone would want to be a puppeteer from their youth.

Scott, I remember that! "Dinosaurs"! :)

Ed said...

You crazy elves! I enjoyed Gnomeo, but it was pretty forgettable. I liked the music and I loved the frog. I thought the main characters were a little dull. They could have used something "more." I loved the powermower with Hulk Hogan's voice!

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I've actually been meaning to see Being Elmo for some time. I'm a fan of documentaries and that one caught my interest.

I recall Dinosaurs, but I never watched it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Gnomeo was full of famous people -- as all animated films are these days. I agree about the leads being dull. They needed to be more lively IMO. I did enjoy all the Shakespeare references like the street numbers 2B and scratched out 2B. LOL!

Tennessee Jed said...

I have no clue about any of this :)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, LOL! It sounds like you need more kids around the house?!

BoilerRoomElf said...

Sorry we couldn't get here earlier. Had a "boiler" emergency... and no, you don't wanna know!

BoilerRoomElf said...

Scott and Tryanmax, we're still debating on keeping ElfFlix or not. We dropped to just streaming (wave of the future!) but are disappointed that there isn't more available. Does it really cost that much to get some older things?

And, more to the point, would we pay more if we could stream some current things without having to pay for cable?

BoilerRoomElf said...

Ed and Andrew, perhaps you just don't appreciate the greatness of the gnome actors! Like fine wine, good cigars, and stainless steel high-pressure boilers, you have to be able to understand the art.

Personally, we enjoyed the "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern" movers. And the "duels" on the Terrafirminator were priceless.

BoilerRoomElf said...

Doc Whoa, watching Lillyhammer has just made us miss Tony Soprano even more. *sigh*

Being Elmo was interesting, too, in that you got to see behind the scenes a lot. If you're interested in the mechanics of staging Sesame Street with the puppets and people, it's worth seeing for that, too.

AndrewPrice said...

BRE, I miss Tony Soprano as well. The Terrafirminator was great... great name too! :)

tryanmax said...

would we pay more if we could stream some current things without having to pay for cable?

I would, so long as it doesn't start approaching cable rates. I think the streaming content providers (Netflix, Blockbuster, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime) believe they are still just dipping a toe into the streaming water with older content. But they have it bass-ackwards. Current content is what people want and you can't get an accurate picture of what people are willing to pay by testing with old content.

The most sensible model, in my mind, would cover the cost of new content and older (ostensibly paid-for) content would be offered as a perk. I could even go for a model that keeps the pipe open for old content for a small monthly fee and if I want to watch a new movie or two, they tack an extra buck on my bill.

T-Rav said...

Gnomeo and Juliet looked pretty dull and uninteresting to me. But it surely can't be worse than The Smurfs.

Also, I don't care if it does have a bit of a liberal bent to it, I will always, always have a soft spot in my heart for Sesame Street. Especially Elmo.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think you're right that people mainly want new content from streaming, but the old stuff is so cheap they should be able to toss it in for almost nothing.

The problem right now is that the studios, rather than admitting the inevitable, continue to stand in the way. For example, now they are working toward creating their own independent streaming systems, so you would need to subscribe to 4-5 different systems to see everything.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Same here. I like Sesame Street despite it's being liberal. Though Elmo came after my time and I know him mainly as a pop culture icon.

I haven't seen The Smurf's yet, but I am hesitant. The ads just completely turned me off. I personally thought Gnomeo was rather dull. It started strong and had couple nice moments, but beyond that I thought it was very paint by numbers. Of course, your mileage may vary! :)

BoilerRoomElf said...

Tryanmax, we would pay more too. You are right that we want new stuff. We used to long for the day that a-la-carte cable would come to the Boiler Room. Now, though, we think it more likely to just pay to stream the items we want.

While looking forward to Sherlock Gnome, we've been enjoying the new British Holmes series. We would have gladly paid to stream it, but we never found it anywhere and, ummm, instead we had to borrow it from some friends...

BoilerRoomElf said...

T-rav, we have a soft spot for Sesame Street, too. Ultimately, a lot of what they teach is good stuff - sharing, being kind, the value of education. We don't even mind if they push eating healthy foods more than eating cookies. You can't argue with that.

BoilerRoomElf said...

Bossman Andrew, we think if the networks don't get on the bandwagon, they're going to find themselves in the same icicle that the music industry is now in. No one is going to want to pay for anything.

DUQ said...

I like streaming, but I still think it needs to be easier to get it to my television. That's when it will really finally take off.

AndrewPrice said...

BRE, I'm not sure the networks will get on the bandwagon for some time. HBO has -- you can get their stuff online now if you subscribe. But the ABC/NBC/CBS networks are currently reaching out to cable, trying to buy up cable channels because they think that's where the money is right now.

BoilerRoomElf said...

DUQ, we've heard rumors of how to do this best:

Requisition a spare top-of-the-line laptop from your bosses, and convince the bosses that you need the extra-fast internet connection to run your boilers correctly. Then, hook those babies up directly to your flatscreen (that you diverted funds for last year) and hope the bosses don't come downstairs too often.

Or so we've heard...

T-Rav said...

BREs, I take issue with that. Cookies are not "a sometimes food." Cookies are awesome.

tryanmax said...

DUQ, BRE, that's not too different from what I've done. I've got an older laptop pumping Netflix and Hulu to my TV while I cobble together funds and parts for my HTPC (home theater personal computer).

Joel and I have discussed this before; it's basically a PC with a TV tuner built in and software to make it work like a DVR and operate via remote. There are some pre-fab HTPCs out there, but they aren't a general consumer item...yet. Give it time and there will be simple, shake-out-of-the-box setups that your grandchildren can set up blindfolded.

You, however, will still be baffled.

BoilerRoomElf said...

Cookies are for closers!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Isn't there a television box-top device now that lets you stream some things?

BoilerRoomElf said...

Tryanmax, you'd be amazed at what we have down here in the bowels of the Commentarama building...

LawHawkRFD said...

It's nice to know at least one kids' movie doesn't have hidden liberal messages.

I canceled NetFlix and ElfFlix because my downloads are so damned slow on this satellite, and they charge through the nose if you use extra bandwith. But I may go back and return to the most basic DVD rentals since they finally seem to have their pricing policies under control

AndrewPrice said...

BRE, I was going to say that exactly!!!!

I can't find the link on youtube, but that was a great parody of Glengarry Glen Ross. I think it was ESPN or Sports Illustrated?

BoilerRoomElf said...

Sorry Bossman Andrew, I don't remember!

Bossman LawHawk, it is nice to see a kids' movie without messages. Good luck on the DVDs, we know several people who went that route.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, you're thinking of Roku, I bet. Yes, it lets you stream things, though I don't know how it handles the various streaming licenses that are out there.

A troublesome issue in the streaming world that I don't hear talk of much is that various licenses exist depending on the target device. A fair amount of content is licensed only for PC and not for televisions or mobile devices. I find this to be fairly stupid considering that most PCs can connect directly to TVs and never know the difference.

Roku is designed for TV, so I don't know how it would handle the device license. Eventually, device licenses will have to go away; I can't see how they don't. But in the meantime, the PC license is the default so it's the recommended way to avoid "Win the Future" headaches.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That could be? I'm honestly not sure. I just recall seeing the ads for a set top device that lets you stream.

I figure that would be the problem. What's going to have to happen is someone will need to "win" the device war to make that happen. I guess we'll see. Right now the studios are resisting.

rlaWTX said...

I had Netflix before all of the changes, but my laptop didn't get along with their streaming. Since I decided I didn't really need MORE TV to watch, I cancelled instead of figuring out the technical miscommunication. I figure I'll start it up again in a year or so - after grad school.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I know what you mean about not needing MORE TV! It already owns too much of my life.

P.S. After grad school comes work... and work sucks. :(

Kelly said...

I liked Gnomeo and Juliet. It was fun and worth seeing. I loved Being Elmo. That was great.

ScyFyterry said...

T-Rav, Cookes are awesome. They are indeed an everyday food.

ScyFyterry said...

I've been curious about Lillyhammer. I saw a lot of people praising it at Big Hollywood, but it wasn't people I particularly trusted. Why is this supposed to be so conservative?

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, I haven't seen it so I can't answer it, but I think the idea that it's conservative is based on the depiction of the people in the city, who are very liberal-rule-bound.

P.S. Cookies are awesome.

tryanmax said...

Cookies, an every day food? Not an every hour food?

AndrewPrice said...

I could go for an every hour food! You can't ever go wrong with cookies. :)

T-Rav said...

Cookies should always be an every hour food.

AndrewPrice said...

I like your thinking T-Rav. You should be the Surgeon General!

rlaWTX said...

I already work!! but after grad school comes the monster test and intern hours while still working... now I'm depressed.

mmmmmm cookies...
[how do you post in "Cookie Monster"?]

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, You aren't exactly making grad school sound all that appealing! LOL!

... the world needs more cookies.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Nice reviews T-Rav!

I saw Lillyhammer on Netflix (currently only available in streaming but I hope they put it to DVD soon).

I loved it! It's definitely lighter than the Sopranos with more comedy I think, and it concentrates on the culture clash and, of course, how totally screwed up the socialism in Norway is.

It's conservative because it points this out not because of the way the situations are handled.

SPOILERS!

And, he doesn't always break the law. For instance, when he beat the crap outta the thugs that hurt the old lady. Or the other thug he roughed up on the train or the muslim he roughed up for dissing their teacher (his love interest).
And the wolf. Yeah, he technically broke the law in those situations but he did the right thing, IMO.

I'm eagerly awaiting the next season!

OT but I also watched Breaking Bad. Outstanding! This is one show that actually surpasses the hype that AMC gives all their shows. Highly recommended.

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