Monday, December 16, 2013

Stuff I scrambled to see on Netflix before it expired

One of the "fun" things about having a Netflix account is finding out only a week or two ahead of time that something in your queue is gonna go bye-bye. Would it be nice to have more notice? Aw, Netflix thinks that's crazy talk!

These two movies expire next weekend, so check 'em out soon if you're interested:

44-Inch Chest: This British crime flick--well, sort of a crime flick, in that it has criminals and we see some crimes committed--didn't get great reviews, but if a movie with Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Stephen Dillane comes to Instant Watching, I'm at least gonna add it to my queue, all right? In fact, it's not a great movie. It's basically a bunch of cool character actors sitting around shooting the bull and breaking balls. But you're not paying 11 bucks to see it in a theater at this point, and if you look at it in that light, well, it's a pretty good way to spend 90 minutes on streaming.

Ray Winstone reminds me of a British Nick Nolte with his disheveled, raspy, mumbling performance as a cuckold who laments being dumped by his wife (the still-ravishing Joanne Whaley). So he and his gangster pals get together and talk things over. For a while they're even joined by an unwilling visitor--the French waiter who's been sleeping with Ray's wife.

Winstone gets the acting-0est part here, doing a lot of fretting and emoting. Wilkinson and Dillane are pretty much what you'd expect, and I don't at all mean that as a negative. McShane's character is gay, and I don't at all mean THAT as a negative; it's just that, in addition to being measured and calm, that is pretty much the character. You have to admire that in a flick with this kind of cast, the movie gives the scene-stealing outrageous part to Hurt, who is the crankiest, nastiest, most animated git in the bunch. He looks like he's having a great time.

Some artsy interludes aside, this doesn't add up to very much, but there are worse things to do than watch these guys banter. It's worth a look-see while it's still around.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and "To Kill a Mockingbird": Does this documentary sound familiar to you? It did me, as well, but it wasn't until I started watching it that I realized I had in fact seen it 3 years ago. In my defense, though, I didn't recognize it since it wasn't under its original title: "American Masters: Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'." See? Totally different, for all I knew.

Once I started watching it, I figured I might as well revisit it, and I was doing a few other things around the house while it ran, but it's a quality piece of work from filmmaker  Mary Murphy. It covers the background of the reclusive author and why she hasn't given an interview in 50 years, the creation of the iconic novel, the film adaptation, and even her friendship with Truman Capote and the rumors that he had something to do with the writing of "Mockingbird."

There aren't any "AHA!" revelations, but you do get a good look at an author who still has some mystique about her as well as some insight into one of the most scrutinized works of the 20th century. It's another winner from the "American Masters" series and, again, well worth checking out on Netflix.

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