Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Gravity: To the tune of "tragedy" by the Bee Gees:

It's gravity
When your spaceship's gone and you can't go on
It's gravity, never mind. But it's been in MY head ever since the movie came out.

Hey, I really want to see this, but I don't have a 3-D IMAX Ultrasphere Supercalibrated THX-NRBQ auditorium in my home. Should I even bother renting the DVD? Everybody says, "You gotta see it in a theater!"

Blue is the Warmest Color: This is a serious FILM, ladies and gentlemen, and it deserves more than just a tag of "that erotic NC-17 lesbian movie." So I'm gonna try to think of something else to say about it.

Nebraska: Alexander Payne's acclaimed black-and-white dramedy may give Bruce Dern an Oscar. But as a Penn State fan, I'm still bitter over 1994 (look it up), and I refuse to watch anything with "Nebraska" in the title.

Thor: The Dark World: He's back. He's bigger, stronger, THORer...but I still suspect he's faking that accent when I see him doing non-Thor stuff. I was all set to go on a rant about how I'd like to see a superhero sequel go "light" instead of "dark" for a change until I remembered "Spider-Man 3." And much of "Superman II." And "V for Vendetta II." OK, I made that last one up. But it would have stunk.

Blue is the Warmest Color: Eh...nothing yet. Hang on a minute.

King of the Hill (Criterion): This early Steven Soderbergh joint was unavailable on video for a long time, and that kind of built it up in my mind to the point where when I saw it on cable and found it only really good instead of an instant classic...I was almost disappointed. Let that be a lesson: Never get your hopes up for anything.

LA Law Season 1: Let's go back to the 1980s! This was a pretty big deal back in the day but was all but forgotten not long after. I'm glad Shout Factory is giving it a shot. Perhaps more Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere will follow.

Blue is the Warmest Color: Uh...not much else to say yet...

WWE Royal Rumble 2014: This PPV event will be notorious for years because of the way the fans crapped all over the main event. I feel like I have to reassure non-wrestling fans that I don't mean that wrestling fans literally crapped all over it.

And in streaming...

Netflix had another slow week. I guess the new normal is waiting for the high-profile releases like the originals and kind of looking for surprises and the monthly mostly-MGM catalog dumps.

Hey, look what IS on streaming this week, though: Blue is the Warmest Color. It's on streaming day and date with the DVD release. There. I did it!

The final episodes of Breaking Bad are available, according to an email Netflix sent me, and that's cool, but I just saw them a few months ago. The Guild looks like it could be an interesting series to try. Some documentaries are back, like Casino Jack, Crazy Love, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room...but these are all re-adds.

Hey, Hulu Plus, I'm still waiting for those CBS/Paramount series! I did see that nearly all episodes of 1955 single-season CBS horse show The Adventures of Champion are now up there, but those come not from CBS, but from American Pop.

Warner Archive Instant disappointed me this weekend. Nothing new was added except a "Warner Goes to War" showcase row of titles. It's a great idea, packaging 7 WWII-themed films and making a neat category, but all 7 were already on the service. That's two empty weeks in a row. I will say this for WAI, though: since the channel's upgrade several weeks ago, it launches faster than it did before on Roku.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

You mean I can't get a real Fire Maiden of Outer Space?

Can you see what it says at the bottom of this screencap from the opening of Olive Films' DVD release of "Fire Maidens of Outer Space" (1956)?


First of all...thanks! Wouldn't have known that otherwise. But does that mean that all the terrestrial characters are REAL? it just me, or does that announcement seem like kind of a killjoy? "Don't get too invested in these Fire Maidens; they're just made up characters in a made-up movie."

It's almost like the movie is trying to warn us right away that it's not going to be nearly as fun as the title makes us think it is.

Monday, February 24, 2014

VH-1 Classic irks me in two big ways in the same video

It's bad enough VH-1 Classic has made videos the filler, not the centerpiece of its schedule, but I've already fought that battle and lost. But for a while, even if we were sick of "Married with Children" reruns and wanted to see an old video, we could turn to our cable provider's On Demand section and see a handful of choice selections. It wasn't the best deal around, but it was something.

I don't know if it's a CONcast thing, but for some time now, the only videos in the VH-1 Classic section have been recent clips shot at various music festivals. So instead of the vintage videos, we see live concert versions. OK, there may be value in that footage, but at least give us the option of seeing the original performance, not one recorded two years ago.

Out of curiosity, a few weeks ago I watched Ugly Kid Joe performing "I Hate Everything About You" at one of those multi-act outdoor shows. I hadn't seen the actual video in years, but I sure remembered the song, and so did the appreciative crowd. That's a good thing.

What's not so good is the lead singer doing one of my least favorite rock frontman gimmicks: the one where he stops singing and holds the microphone out to the crowd so that they can sing for him. Whenever this happens at a concert I attend, I want to groan and yell, "We didn't pay to hear ourselves!" I mean, really, there is a thrill in sharing a communal sing-along during a music show, but if I shell out big bucks for a ticket, I want to hear the words coming from the singer, not from all the inebriated ham-and-eggers standing next to me.

Besides, if you're Ugly Kid Joe, isn't it the least you can do to make it through your one hit all the way through all by yourselves? The band looked enthusiastic and happy to be there, but, gee, it's safe to assume this wasn't the culmination of a 3-hour set. Get on, do your hits to the best of your ability, make way for the Soup Dragons, and get off!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

This is one of the slowest DVD weeks in recent memory. I'm tempted to go see if the dollar store got a new shipment of budget discs just so I can have something to write about. I did notice the box of ultra-cheap dollar DVDs on the bottom shelf of the sucker aisle at the Wal-Mart checkout had a Mr. and Mrs. North DVD, but it "only" had 3 episodes, so I wasn't even tempted. It's still cool to think that even though they're so tucked away, you can still find copies of "The Basketball Fix" for a dollar apiece on retail shelves.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: It may sound like an odd choice for Criterion, but if Wes Anderson left his phone camera on and recorded the inside of his coat pocket for 90 minutes, they'd put that on DVD.

Foreign Correspondent: Why do all these Alfred Hitchock movies get fancy Criterion re-releases? Who does this guy think he is, Wes Anderson?

6 Million Dollar Man Season 5: I think literally every other episode this season is a two-parter, which is surely an indication of how intricate the show's sophisticated plots had become by the fifth season. Also, this is the season when Steve Austin literally goes to the moon.

Game of Thrones Season 3: Yep, sometimes I sure wish I had HBO.

Nurse Jackie Season 5: Yet I'm OK with not having Showtime.

Thankfully, Warner Archive gives us some excitement this week with Vitaphone Comedy Collection Volume 2: Shemp Howard. YES! Volume 1, which features Shemp and Fatty Arbuckle (along with Lionel Stander, Ben Blue, and others) is an outstanding set. This one is even more Shemptastic! Also new from the Archive: What Price Hollywood? (1932) and Beware the Batman season 1.

And in streaming, let's look at Netflix first:

House of Cards Season 2: I haven't gotten there yet, but just tell me that the guy who runs the rib joint is back. He's the one decent character in the whole bunch.

Passion: I don't know much about this Brian DePalma movie, but I think it's safe to assume it involves sexual tension, blonde women, and homages to Hitchcock.

Marvel's Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United: This is terribly unfair to Marvel, but this just makes me wish the recent DC Dark Knight animated films were available.

On Hulu, I don't think these Carsey-Warner shows were available before: Cybill, A Different World, and Grace Under Fire. I notice it's only the first few seasons of  "World." Come on, Hulu, what is this crap? We're still waiting for more than the first couple seasons of all those MTM shows. I guess they're never coming. I'll be really disappointed if those new CBS library  shows that are coming aren't complete series runs.

And speaking of that, where ARE those new CBS library shows?

Warner Archive Instant did not add any movies, as far as I can tell, but it didn't remove another couple dozen, either. Good news is two interesting Western TV series were added to the lineup: 

A Man Called Shenandoah, which sounds excellent (I've never seen it but sure intend to give it a watch) though it only lasted one season; and The Rounders: A cowboy sitcom based on the 1965 Glenn Ford/Henry Fonda movie, but in the series you get Ron Hayes and Patrick (John's son) Wayne. It lasted only 17 episodes, but all are here.

It's great to see WAI load up on the old movies, of course, but I'm almost more delighted by the obscure television that shows up. It seems like it's been a while since anything new appeared in that section, so that's an interesting update. I expect another good movie add this Friday, though.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Journey into DVD: Roundup of movies I got at the liberry

That's right, my local library. It's not just for renting space out to community groups too small to rent out a school auditorium or HOA office anymore! it has books, magazines, and even DVDs.

Ocean's 13: Well, it was better than Ocean's 12. I mean, much better than Ocean's 12. It's pretty much just what it wants to be (what it should be?): a fun heist film. The gang gets back together to screw over Al Pacino's character, who has just screwed over Elliott Gould's character. It is a credit to Gould that his character (admittedly, one already well established in the Oceaniverse) leaves a far bigger impression than Pacino's, but come on. We all wanted to see an over-the-top Al shouting down all the A-, B-, and C-listers in the cast. Instead, he's just...effective at playing at a prick who deserves to have his casino ruined. In essence, fans of the series won't be disappointed, but fans of Extreme Pacino might be. I enjoyed Ocean's 13 but can't think of any particular reason to watch it again.

Admission: It's not the movie's fault that the studio sold it as a delightful romantic comedy (remember that cute scene of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in those rustic shower stalls?) when it's more of a dramedy (or even just a light drama) about self-identity. It may be my fault for not getting what I expected and feeling a little thrown off. It IS the movie's fault for not being sharper, funnier, or more interesting.

Just because it isn't the kind of generic romantic comedy the marketing might have indicated doesn't mean that it is an intelligent film by default. It's thoughtful but never all that compelling. Fey's admissions officer at Princeton finds herself screwing with the process in order to help a boy who Rudd's character believes is the son she put up for adoption years ago.

I'm not sure "Admission" ever knows what it wants to be, and the result is a muddle. It doesn't quite make any solid points about elitism of the university system, and in fact at some point you just wonder, "Who cares if the kid gets into Princeton? He can go to some less snooty school and get a decent education." I'm sure a lot of people will want to like this just because it stars Fey and Rudd, but those two deserve better.

Midnight in Paris: I watched this before the Dylan Farrow scandal kicked back into high gear during the Golden Globes. I feel like we have to at least address that whenever we talk about a Woody Allen movie right now--well, not that "we have to," but rather I feel I need to. I have an opinion, but I can watch the movies while distancing myself from that opinion. Borrowing a movie from the library makes it easier than paying 11 bucks to see it in a theater. Plus Woody's not even in this one.

I don't have a strong opinion about "Midnight in Paris." I was expecting something magically charming or at least charmingly magical. Instead I got an amusing but not all that substantial fantasy about nostalgia. Owen Wilson made an enjoyable enough Woody substitute though and even an acceptable enough romantic novelist type. But the ending was anticlimactic, and why do we have to kiss Paris' ass all the time, anyway? I liked this a lot more than "Vicky Christina Barcelona," but I didn't think it was all that big a deal.

X-Men First Class: OK, let's end on a high note after 3 lukewarmish mini-reviews. This one is fantastic, easily the best of the franchise, and I'm irritated I didn't see it sooner. I don't know how well it holds up "in continuity" with the other 3, and I don't care. This is a prequel that brings new life into the series.

The casting is fine, especially James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, and their relationship is credible and absorbing. On the villain side, well, January Jones as Emma Frost is a misfire, but Kevin Bacon at least seems to be having a great time as Sebastian Shaw.

I like how "First Class" sets up the X-Men while also combining elements of Cold War history. I really was kind of "eh" at the prospect of Bryan Singer bringing more of these movies to the big screen, but with Matthew Vaughn directing, I think they have hit on the right formula. Action, intrigue, and superheroes--I strongly recommend this one and look forward to May's "Days of Future Past."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oscar-nominated movies I actually want to see

I'd give you a full Academy Awards preview, but I don't really  know what's going on and I haven't seen any of the movies. What I can do, though, is tell you which ones I actually want to see. Why I will do that is...uh, never mind the why. I just will.

NOTE: I took all films nominated for one of the major categories, including best picture and the acting groups but also things like sound editing, and divided them all into various categories.


American Hustle
The Wolf of Wall Street


All is Lost


Star Trek: Into Darkness
Iron Man 3


The Croods


Despicable Me 2


Before Midnight
Dallas Buyers Club
Captain Phillips
Blue Jasmine
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wind Rises
Saving  Mr. Banks


12 Years a Slave


The Great Gatsby


Ernest and Celestine
The Grandmaster


The Lone Ranger


August: Osage County
The Book Thief
Lone Survivor


Jackass Presents: Bad Grampa
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Friday, February 14, 2014

Great Moments in Live Television

In May 1955, "The Jackie Gleason Show" featured a Honyemooners sketch "Letter to the Boss," in which Ralph believes he has been fired, then writes an angry letter ripping his boss. He gives it to Ed to drop in the mailbox, and then of course realizes he was told to turn in his uniform not because he is fired, but because he is getting promoted. THAT's why he won't be driving a bus anymore! So he has to try to prevent his boss from reading the letter.

The show had done this same story about a year and a half earlier, but what distinguishes THIS version is that Ralph Kramden almost singlehandedly takes down an entire city block in less time than it would take Godzilla. Folks, I'm not making a fat joke here.

Here's the setting:

As Ralph is getting ready to stick his hand in a mailbox and try to snatch the letter, Norton stands guard.

When Ed suddenly yells, Jackie Gleason's take is so  intense, he not only gets a laugh with his initial reaction, but he loses his hat, then staggers backwards, nearly trips, and bumps up against the shoddy backdrop, darned near destroying the "buildings" behind them.


The immediate aftermath is great. Not surprisingly, the live studio audience howls as the scenery shakes, and even the unflappable Art Carney almost betrays a small smile.

Carney waits for Gleason, though, and lets him address the situation how he sees fit.

For his part, Gleason regains his composure, lets the crowd laughter subside, then, still in character, exclaims:

"What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack or something? For a minute there, everything started to swim!"

And that brings another good laugh and an appreciative burst of applause from the audience.

You just can't beat live television!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching EXTRA

Since yesterday's post went to press (I love saying stuff like that), I have come across some tidbits and news ITEMS that just couldn't wait till next week's column. Plus I have to write about this stuff before the winter weather drives me batty.

ITEM: The Wonder Years is finally coming to DVD later this year from Star Vista (formerly Time-Life, and it bothers me that it's not Time-Life anymore, but then again, heck, it bothers me not to see "Life Magazine" on the newsstand, and come to think of it, it bothers me not to see newsstands), with "virtually all music intact." Hacked-up versions have been streaming for a while, but it looks like one of the most requested TV on DVD releases ever is on the way.

So we get "Batman" and "The Wonder Years," long coveted but long thought unreleasable,  in the same calendar year. Can Cop Rock be far behind?

ITEM: A few weeks ago, I mentioned "Family Matters" season 4 was out. Now comes trouble in paradise, as the episodes were all syndicated versions with scenes removed! How does this happen in 2014? This passage from TV Shows on DVD struck me, though:

A week ago yesterday, Warner Home Video released Family Matters - The Complete 4th Season on DVD into stores. And fans immediately began complaining about the episodes in this set

Yes, I'd love to make a joke about fans complaining about "Family Matters" episodes, but even the crappy shows deserve quality DVD releases. Therefore I will make no remarks about how the last thing fans should be complaining about is that there is LESS of the show to endure in any single sitting.

ITEM: Warner Archive releases Marine Boy Volume 2 and Free and Easy with Buster Keaton. The interesting thing about the Keaton picture is that it includes the Spanish-language version shot at the same time with a Spanish-speaking cast alongside Buster. It's an interesting treat for fans and another indication of the creativity and dedication of the folks running the Warner Archive.

ITEM: Hulu Plus expands library deal with CBS, will add more old-school TV to its roster. I am quite pleased to see news like this because it sometimes seems like all the acquisition dollars are thrown at new series like "Elementary" and "Blue Bloods," when there are tons of classic shows not being seen anywhere, not even in this era of rerun-heavy digital subchannels like ME-TV.

Specific titles mentioned in news coverage of the deal include "The Brady Bunch" (I love watching this with my kids), Taxi (an all-time great), and "Happy Days" (hasn't held up as well as I hoped, but I'd still to be able to cherry pick individual episodes and see them on demand).

But here's the thing, Hulu: We want all seasons of these shows, not just the "first 3 seasons" junk you pull with many of the oldies you license, like the MTM programs.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Ender's Game: I was going to write about how people wanted to boycott this movie when it hit theaters and joke about the presence or lack of any boycott with the video release. Then I realized someone might interpret any of that as some kind of political statement. Then I realized I almost forgot what the boycott was about. THEN I realized I forgot what the MOVIE was about.

So, anyway...this is available on DVD now.

All is Lost: It's a good thing actors make choices based on the inherent quality of work and not the potential for awards recognition, because, man, every review I read of this one touted Bob Redford as a sure-fire Best Actor nominee for his work as a man adrift at sea and struggling to survive. Keep in mind the guy is in his late 70s and did this without the benefit of a charming volleyball to play off of. Yet Leo DiCaprio gets to plow through broads and drugs for a few hours, and they recognize him. No respect!

The Counselor: You just never know.  It's amazing that a movie with a screenplay by Ridley Scott, direction by Ridley Scott, and an all-star cast can be reduced to "the one where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car."

The Best Man Holiday: I read an offhand reference to "the great Morris Chestnut" in the "Entertainment Weekly" review of this when it came out last year, and I'm still reeling.

The Jungle Book: OK, it's on Blu-Ray, but I just bought the damn 40th Anniversary Edition a few years ago. I think I'm OK with the "bare necessities" for another few years.

Looney Tunes Center Stage: Warner Home Video continues to find new ways of repackaging the old stuff while avoiding bringing out actual new stuff. This is basically disc 3 of the first Golden Collection. Hey, remember the Golden Collections?

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth: What, are YOU gonna tell him it ain't the truth?

The Armstrong Lie: Now, Lance Armstrong, yeah, I might take a shot at calling him a liar.

Dallas Season 2: I saw this was added to Netflix. Unfortunately, it's just the modern TNT version. I wouldn't mind if Netflix added old prime-time soaps to its library, particularly something as fun as the original "Dallas."

Sherlock Season 3: I haven't seen season 2 yet! I know, I know...

Newhart Season 2: Kudos to Shout Factory for reviving this series (and season 3 is already scheduled for April!), but I read some buzz on SitcomsOnline that there are two syndication (that is, edited) versions on this set. How the heck does this stuff always happen with Shout releases? Anyway, season 2 is a lot more like NEWHART "Newhart" than season 1; it's a real transition year, with the show switching from shooting on video to film, getting Dick Loudon out of the inn and into the TV studio, phasing out Kirk, and adding Julia Duffy's Stephanie and Peter Scolari's Michael. If you thought season 1 was a little odd, check out season 2 and get ready for the show to really become what you remember it as in season 3.

Red Skelton Lost Episodes: I don't know, but to me the whole show might as well be lost. I don't think there's ever been any attempt at anything but a scattershot collection of episodes, nobody ever shows it on TV...the term lost episode is sadly redundant with Red Skelton.

And in streaming...

Have I mentioned that Crackle is showing selected "classic" episodes of Jeopardy!? I think it's a cool idea. Other than some reality/game hybrids, not a lot of game shows have popped up on streaming video services, and there could be a real opportunity there now that GSN has given up on classic game shows. still Hulu.

Netflix added 30 for 30: The Price of Gold, which is cool since it just debuted on ESPN, and these documentaries don't usually show up so quickly. Speaking of documentaries, you can check out Filthy Gorgeous, the story of Bob Guiccione.

Brother Bear is a new Disney add, and it's Disney, but I think we're all kind of hoping for a little better from the Disney deal, aren't we?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Yeah, the Warner Archive Instant Roku channel IS improved, but...

I got an email the other day touting the new and improved Warner Archive Instant Roku channel. This wasn't a surprise for me since I had already stumbled upon it the night before, but it was an indication that Warners is proud of the changes.

The main improvement is the addition of a My Watchlist function at the top of the screen so you can make your own queue (you can't change the order, though, only add or delete titles from it). This does make it a lot easier to stash the stuff you want to watch and access it quickly. There are also expanded search capabilities, with decade categories and "most watched" rows as well.

Unfortunately, the navigation seems a little slower as your home page has to "load" for a few seconds after you go from your watchlist to the main page and vice versa. Still, this is a pretty cool change, and there is a snazzy new icon for the Roku screen as well.

Now, the cynic in me suspects the timing of this change. See, the new interface and watchlist function wasn't the only thing I noticed when I logged on to WAI the other night. Conspicuous by their absence were scores of movies that the channel just dropped. This was after many other titles had already been purged the week before.

You don't suppose the bells and whistles are here to help distract us from the fact that they've finally started to taketh away as well as giveth, do you? Well, I sure do, but the cynic in ME is pretty strong. Don't get me wrong, I still love the service and think the value is decent, but this IS more expensive than Netflix or Hulu Plus, and I'd rather have all those deleted movies back than a watchlist and some new graphics.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Wonderful World of TCM...on demand

I think I have recently seen maybe the greatest thing to ever air on Turner Classic Movies, and that's saying something since, as we all know, it is The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind. But before I get to that, allow me to discuss something else I saw, something that is very well known but not something I need to see again.

I had vague memories of seeing the original "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," but stimulated by the release of Ben Stiller's remake, I saw the Danny Kaye picture pop up on demand and figured I'd check it out. Well, I understand now why my memories were only vague. To me, it's a forgettable movie that disappears from my consciousness almost as soon as I see it.

I'm sure Danny Kaye fans will want to stick my pistle up my pestle for saying this, but I just don't "get" the guy. I acknowledge his talent, but his movies just don't seem to do much for me. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for "Mitty." I'll say this: I haven't even seen the Ben Stiller version, but I'm sure this one is better.

I'll tell you what's better than just about anything: The episode of "Private Screenings," the long-form chat show hosted by Robert Osbourne, featuring as its guest...Robert Osbourne! That's right, our beloved Bobby Osbo sat down on the other side of the set and faced an interrogation from Alec Baldwin.

Well, actually, it was a spirited but affectionate conversation between two guys who are clearly great friends and who share a fine on-screen chemistry. This is perhaps a tad ironic considering some of the behavior for which Alec has made headlines lately, but you can't come away from this special not seeing the bond still enjoyed by the former "TCM Essentials" co-hosts.

Somehow I missed this when it first aired. This is what life does to you when you no longer own a DVR. You have to endure can't hoard episodes of Crash and Bernstein...and most significantly, you nearly miss a Bobby Osbo special and must stumble upon it while checking the TCM on demand lineup.

This "Private Screenings" is itself an "essential" for any TCM lover. You get the Secret Origin of Osbourne himself as well as some background on the start of the network. Later you see some highlights from past "Private Screenings" episodes, including Robert Mitchum sandbagging with non-answers and Mickey Rooney acting out a past rage and making our guy more than a little uncomfortable.

I had heard many of the stories Osbourne tells, but the producers of this show unearth some great footage to really animate them. There's a clip of Bobby greeting Bette Davis at an AFI event in the 1970s, a pivotal incident that got him exposure and led to some daytime TV appearances. I enjoyed that anecdote before, but to see the actual encounter is something else. Best of all are the amazing snippets of Osbourne acting on soap operas!

Baldwin is a skilled interviewer and an ideal partner for this exercise, though fans of the old AMC may be taken aback by his dismissal of former frontman Bob Dorian. He means it as a tribute to Osbourne, not necessarily a slam on Doran, though. Bobby Osbo himself is, as always, the epitome of class, a true gentleman and someone whose love of classic film is always evident. The last segment of the program is an almost unbearable montage of celebrities offering cheesy soundbites in tribute, but if anyone deserves that kind of treatment while they're still around to see it, it's Mr. TCM.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Dallas Buyers Club: This Matthew McConaughey as a great actor thing came way too fast for me. The fact that "Failure to Launch" just showed up on Netflix Instant isn't helping any (HBO's "True Detective," however, is).

Escape Plan: Sly and Arnold are trapped inside an unbreakable prison. They attempt a daring escape but are interrupted when Kevin Hart gets them to box each other. Wait, am I confusing this with something else?

Free Birds: Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson voicing a kids movie? I guess it's OK, but I can't shake the nagging fear that it's a gateway movie to the R-rated stuff.

About Time: The latest (maybe the last?) Richard Curtis romcom comes with this description:

About Time is a comedy about love and time travel, which discovers that, in the end, making the most of life may not need time travel at all.

It doesn't? Well, I guess I'll give up my time machine and get back to work on that perpetual motion device I've been working on for years.

Baggage Claim: It's nice we're in an era when African-American audiences can be targeted by the same kind of generic romantic comedies as white audiences.

Justice League: War: I hate to be one of those complainers about how comics used to be, but these DC animated movies are getting pretty dark. It would be nice to see something like Super Friends:  Heated but Ultimately Nonfatal Fights.

Romeo and Juliet:  I guess the kids got enough of this in English class, because nobody went to see this umpteenth reimagining of the tale. Why does every generation get one of these, yet "Troilus and Cressida" sits around gathering dust?

Three Stooges Collection: Budget-priced box set containing 6 of the team's feature films, and it sounds like a great deal, though knowing Mill Creek, I wouldn't be surprised if it was all crammed on one flipper disc.

Family Matters Season 4 and Laverne and Shirley Season 7: You know, I pair these two TV releases because, initial appearances to the contrary, the shows actually have a lot in common. For instance, they both...are sitcoms...and...OK, I'll admit it, I just don't have anything to say about them.

Warner Archive went totally nuts, releasing several noirs, including a couple George Rafts; a few 1930s films, a couple Brother Rat movies, and the 1972 TV series Search. Now, I've never seen that one, but, boy, I sure want to when I read the official description:

Hugh O’Brian, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosa rotate leads as elite high tech espionage operatives for Probe Division of World Securities Corporation in this spy-sensational SF-flavored actioner from Leslie Stevens (creator, The Outer Limits) and Robert Justman (Producer and one of the guiding lights of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation).

And in streaming...

Netflix followed up a lackluster January 1 monthly catalog add with an even weaker February 1 catalog add. In fact, Netflix has been adding a few interesting titles here and there but not bringing it in terms of volume lately. Perhaps the highest-profile add this past week was The Croods. Several WWE titles have been added lately, which may be a good sign that their deal will continue despite the imminent launch of the WWE Network.

Sunset Boulevard, MASH, and Marathon Man are good adds, and the Airplane! movies and the first Naked Gun are welcome, but overall it's been an inauspicious start to 2014 for Instant Watching.

Crackle pleased me by adding Drive. I started to watch this on Netflix several months ago, then fell asleep, and it expired the next day. Now I get a chance to finish it!

Hulu was quiet this week. I guess it's focusing on all the new network shows right now.

Acorn TV added Slings and Arrows, Father Brown, the recent comedy You, Me, and Them, and new episodes of Miss Marple. It is also adding a new episode of George Gently each week this month.

The real action this week, as it has been most weeks lately, is at Warner Archive Instant. Yes, I bemoaned the disappearance of scores of titles yesterday, but at least the service is also adding a bunch of stuff. Lots of goodies this week, including pre-Codes, genre action, and some outright classics. Here are some highlights of the Friday update:

Bedside (Allen Jenkins, Warren William), Air Force (John Garfield), Destination Tokyo (Garfield and Cary Grant), You'll Find Out ( Kay Kyser with Lugosi and Lorre).

A slew of early Hollywood female-driven pictures are new, including They Call it Sin with Loretta Young, Illicit with Babs Stanwyck, Guilty Hands with Kay Francis, and Female (Ruth Chatterton). I also see some Joan Blondell movies and a bunch of new William Powell titles. Star-studded wartime efforts Thank Your Lucky Stars (WWII) and Starlift (Korea) are here, and so is the infamous Wonder Bar.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Party's Over (or has it just begun?): Warner Instant dumps scores of titles

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of Warner Archive Instant since I added it last year, but part of me has always dreaded the inevitable onset of "churn," the dumping of titles from the service because--well, just because, I guess. It's not as if Warner Brothers has deals with itself that make the titles expire automatically. No, they are just pulling movies because they can. Maybe they want to continue to encourage DVD sales by establishing that a title's presence on streaming is not permanent.

Hopefully the movies will rotate back in, but I am a little disappointed because, as a Roku user, I had no idea that anything was leaving until I happened to log on to the website and saw a Leaving Soon category. Even then, it was pretty vague; there were 200 or so movies listed with no expiration dates. The next week, many of those, but not all, were gone. There is no specific info on when the rest will be leaving.

I should add that since the beginning of the year, Warner has really picked up the pace on adding new material to Instant Archive. Each week brings dozens of new and exciting movies, and I'm still impressed with the selection.

The lesson here is that on any Streaming Video on Demand service, you had better watch what you want to watch as soon as you can. For a while, though. Warner Archive Instant was not just "any" SVOD channel. It was different. It added something almost every Friday, and nothing ever went away. Too good to be true? Yeah, I suppose. But I still felt a loss of innocence when I saw that a few dozen movies I hadn't gotten to were no longer there.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I will not watch it!

Thanks for promoting the heck out of it, Fox, but, no, I won't watch The New Girl.

Thanks to you, too, Hulu, for your incessant recommendation of The New Girl and for always giving it a prominent place on my page for my convenience if I should ever decide to watch it.

However, since you've been doing that for months and I still haven't watched it, may I make a humble suggestion that maybe it's time to offer another recommendation? You know, something I might actually click and view? Or maybe you could just get it out of the way and move up all the shows I do watch and make it easier for me to view them?

See, I tried the show before, and adorkable or not, it's just not for me. It doesn't matter if Coach is back or isn't back. It doesn't matter if Schmidt is being outrageous. It doesn't matter what "the gang" is up to this week, last week, next week, or any given week. I ain't gonna watch it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ready for the Big Game?

Personally I think the NFL made a big mistake by playing the Super Bowl after the Pro Bowl. How can the nation get back up for football after the spectacle of some of the game's best players, complemented by a slew of good ones replacing the ones that couldn't bother to be there, kind of trying to win?

I endorsed Denver several weeks ago, and I continue to root for Peyton Manning, but if the digits of the score happen to fall a certain way and I happen to win a few books in an office pool, I could tolerate a victory by either side.

I am amazed at the expansion of the halftime filler to include the Kitten Bowl and the Fish Bowl alongside the ever-popular Puppy Bowl. Me, I'm grateful for anything that gives me an excuse not to watch Bruno Mars, but my own plan is to fire up an episode of "Jackpot Bowling" with Milton Berle. In other words, yep, you guessed it, it'll be the Bowl Bowl.

As long as the wings are good, though, it should be an enjoyable evening. Have fun tonight, folks, and don't get any concussions.