Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Half-Assed Gourmet: Grilled Chicken, Cheddar and Onion with WHAT?

I somehow developed an affinity for the McDonald's Dollar Menu's CBO burger--that's Cheddar, Bacon, and Onion to those of you who don't have kids who can envision no other restaurant in the universe--and I ate a couple of them for a several visits in a row. It's a simple, modest creation, but something about the way the ingredients combined made it an appealing choice. I decided to change up recently, though, and...go to Ruth's Chris for some steaks.

No, sadly, it was McD's yet again, but this time I got the crispy chicken version of the CBO. Ooh, what a radical change-up, Mr. Shark! Yes, I know, but, boy, did it turn out to be different.

First, let me mention that the chicken CBO is a whole buck more than the burger. That's 100% more. It's still only two bucks, but it's just funny that the addition of poultry elevates this burger out of the Dollar Menu ghetto and up to the big time. Well, technically it's still on the Dollar Menu AND MORE menu, but I think most of us right-thinking golden arches patrons consider the AND MORE section an illegitimate blight on the formerly pure Dollar portion.

Anyway, I sat down for a picnic with my kids and, anxious to try the new (to me) sammich, I tore it open without even acknowledging my fries or sweet tea (all part of a balanced meal, natch). Right away I knew I was in trouble. Big, big trouble.

I saw bread, I saw chicken, I saw cheese, I saw mayonnaise...

WHAT? Mayonnaise?

There was a time when I could count on McDonald's to be the one fast food chain that did NOT insist on treating that accursed extra as a standard ingredient. That time was...just about always. The closest burger joint near me when I was growing up was a Hardee's, which insisted on slopping mayonnaise on all its burgers. I insisted on insisting they remove it, and some of the time they actually did. I still remember my dad's look of defeat as I complained time and again, "Aw, they put mayonnaise on this!"  As Joe Pesci told us, they always screw you at the drive-through.

Yes, I did get this chicken CBO at the drive-through. But I hadn't asked them to remove mayonnaise. In fact, I often ask when I see a new sandwich on a menu, "Is there any kind of sauce on that?" I didn't say anything when I got the CBO. Why would I? There's nothing on the beef version. Who in the world decided the chicken version needed the devil's condiment to top it off?

And by the way, the mayo on this thing wasn't just a topper or an extra. It was all over the damn sandwich. My daughter saw my disgust--come to think of it, it's possible she also noticed me groan, "Aw, they put mayonnaise on this"--and in a calm, measured tone, told me, "You can just wipe it off, Daddy."

I wanted to say, "Oh, yeah? Let's see how YOU react next time I put something on YOUR food you don't like! I doubt you'll be so levelheaded then!" I wanted to say, "LOOK at this! It's smothering my food! I can't just wipe it off!" But I just said, "Yeah, I guess so," grabbed a few napkins, and removed as much of the disgusting topping as I could.

How was the sandwich? I don't know. The fries were piping hot, and the tea was sugary sweet (must be all the sugar), but I couldn't really enjoy the main attraction. Virtually every bite carried a trace of the mayonnaise, even after removing the top bun and scraping down the chicken. I don't know if I can ever order it again. Sure, I could ask them to hold the mayo, but now that I know how much they put on it, the whole item may well be forever sullied.

What happened to you McDonald's? Are you really in such dire financial straits--I think I read your revenues were down like .00003% last quarter, which made Wall Street dizzy--that you have to turn to inferior, un-American ingredients to pad your sandwiches? In protest, I am not returning to any of your establishments.

Well, unless my kids want to go there again. I mean, I'm not gonna be that stubborn about this.

Monday, April 28, 2014

5Q Movie Review: Frozen

Q: Why did it take so long for Disney to adapt the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen"?
A: Well, the story does seem a tad thin, but that hasn't stopped them before. I mean, it's really kind of surprising in retrospect that a Princess-centric company didn't seize on this one years ago. Apparently Disney DID work on it at various times, but it wasn't until they decided to turn the fairly dark tale into one centering on a pair of sisters that they really got it going. I'm sure they're glad they did.

Q: Wow, this has made umpteen billions of dollars worldwide! Is it really that good?
A: Yes, it is! As I said, the story is a little meager, but I think it's one of the better Disney efforts of recent years, appropriate for children and adults alike. But if you have kids, wow, you have to give them a chance to see this. All who see this movie love this movie. Those same children are somehow able to memorize the entire film after only one viewing.

As late as 2013, children loved all the usual things children have loved throughout history: jacks, licorice whips, paste. But the world has changed, and I can report with scientific certainty that kids only love "Frozen" now.

Q: Will I ever get the songs out of my head?
A: It'll take a few weeks. The songs are functional but also catchy and well performed. But I'll warn you that while you might have a fighting chance to eliminate the tunes from your brain, your kids will be goners--not that they care.

Recently, there were two times in a row I picked up my younger child from day care and found him and his friends dancing and singing along to the soundtrack. I mean, these kids knew all the words, the gestures, everything. It was almost unsettling, like it was some kind of bizarre battle cry as a prelude to overthrowing us grown-ups and forming a Frozen Kingdom ruled by toddlers.

Q: Is Olaf as annoying as he seems?
A: I worried about him, too. Chatty snowman sidekick, seemingly there just for comic relief--could have been a real pain. But to the contrary, he's charming and is used well here, providing some humor with his naivete but also helping Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff and becoming a worthy character in his own right.

Q: OK, OK, those few of us who haven't seen it yet will try to see it. Is the DVD a good value?
A: Unfortunately, Disney seems to have gotten into the habit of holding back on extras for future special edition reissues. It's disappointing there isn't more supplemental material for what has become a phenomenon and an essential part of Disney culture.

HOWEVER...head to the bonus material and find the cartoon short titled "Get a Horse." I didn't see "Frozen" in its theatrical return, so when this hit video, I had forgotten all about this new Mickey Mouse 'toon that played before the feature. It combines elements both old and new in creating a hilarious, action-packed (if anything it's almost too frenetic for its own good) tribute to the character's history. I would say it's worth the price of the disc alone because it is that good, but who am I kidding? There's no way I would pay full DVD price for a 7-minute cartoon. In fact, I didn't even buy THIS DVD. But let's just say it's a really nice treat that adds value to the "Frozen" package and will itself demand multiple viewings.

Friday, April 25, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection: In a weak week for DVD, this collection stands out. It offers all 53 old theatrical Magoo shorts (not to be confused with the TV show), remastered from original elements, plus extras. Shout Factory doesn't always do a good job, but when it does, it produces something special, and this looks like the case here. Apologies for making the obvious comment here, but you'd have to be blind to pass this up. Wait, that's insensitive. You'd have to be a stupid moron to pass this up! That's better.

Madea's Neighbors from Hell: In an apparent effort to ensure some kind of Tyler Perry product is on the shelves at any given time, he releases a taped performance of a stage play. I'm sure his performance as Madea is even more nuanced and subtle when he's performing in a theater.

Barefoot: I don't even know what this is about. If you're into it, more power to you.

Bettie Page Reveals All: Get it? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. That's right, Bettie Page finally explains the role of the Illuminati in controlling global finance. But is she barefoot?

Chances Are 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray: I normally try to avoid one word snarky comments on individual titles--I feel I owe you at least a few extra words of snark--and I try to avoid the Internet tendency to make reductive one-word snap judgments, but when I see a 25th Anniversary Edition of "Chances Are," can you blame me for thinking...Really?

Riot in Cell Block 11: Criterion delivers Don Siegel's seminal prison, which of course was the inspiration for "Tango & Cash." Nah, not really, but oh, would that it were!

Master of the House: Another fine Criterion effort on a classic foreign fi;m--You know what? All I can think of is George Costanza singing, "Master of the house, keeper of the inn..."

Newhart Season 3: For many fans, this is the season when "Newhart really BECOMES "Newhart." Dear Lord, I just got a vision of a TV Land reality show called "Becoming Newhart."

Client List Season 2: Answer is, no, she's not naked in this season, either.

Eddie Cantor Lost Performances Volume 1: Anybody know what the deal is with this? The Amazon description says:

Eddie Cantor springs to life with this rebirth of some of his most memorable performances that until now were lost somewhere in a studio vault. Eddie really delivers with a collection of 18 songs and 3 skits and is joined by the likes of Connie Russell, Helen O'Connell, Shemp Howard and the Three Stooges, and many more.

It looks like a bunch of clips from old television programs. Unfortunately, it's only listed as 60 minutes and doesn't appear to be a great value.

WWE Best of Raw After the Show: Would you believe that after the show goes off the air, live crowds are often treated to "dark matches" and segments, main event caliber bouts or sometimes just goofy things designed to keep the audience sticking around to the very end and to go out on a high note? Well, this happens, and this collection features that rare footage. It's interesting because with so much content going on the WWE Network, this is a good idea of how to make a DVD release relevant nowadays. We'll see how this sells.

Warner Archive has the musical Irene with Ray Milland and Anna Neagle, the 1984 "video album" Heartbeat City from the Cars, and a pair of cool double features. The classic comedy duo--well, almost classic--Brown and Carney appears in Radio Stars on Parade. The Warner Archive description says the team is "often likened to Abbott and Costello." Yeah, they are, as in, "Boy, these guys are nowhere near as funny as Abbott and Costello." I enjoy watching them, though, and am glad to see more of them on disc. This feature is paired with George Murphy in Mayor of 44th Street. Another double feature combines She's Got Everything and The Smartest Girl in Town, two romantic comedies teaming Ann Southern and Gene Raymond, who are never likened to Abbott and Costello.

And in Streaming...

Hulu, I know I've been badgering you for weeks to add those CBS shows that you announced you were adding. And I know you added a few last week. But, guys and gals, I was hoping for something like" Sgt. Bilko" or "The Invaders." I certainly wasn't waiting for A Gifted Man and The Ghost Whisperer.

BUT I am intrigued by the addition of the 1980s Ralph Bakshi New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. Now, here is an interesting, seldom seen CBS show. Let's have more of this, Hulu.

Hulu still "wins" this week, though, just by adding season 2 of Moone Boy with Chris O'Dowd, a delightful Britcom that deserves more attention, and the series finale of The I.T. Crowd, also starring O'Dowd. That one aired overseas last year but makes its stateside debut this week on Hulu. It's a solid way to close out a great series.

Netflix mostly takes  the week off again, but...

Charlie Countryman may be a big deal, but honestly, I saw Shia LeBoeuf's name and dismissed it. You may not be familiar with Instructions Not Included, but this Mexican comedy was a pretty big hit last year. I don't know much about Dean Koontz adaptation Odd Thomas, but it looks like a lot of people are excited about it.

The clear highlight for me in another slow week for Netflix is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon. I know the title is a riff on Don Juan, but I just think of the immortal Butt-Head saying, "I'm no Don Johnson, you know."

Warner Instant didn't add anything new this week, at least not that I noticed, and unfortunately the resume playing feature isn't working for me anymore. On the plus side, there is a convenient row of Leaving Soon movies on the Roku screen. Also, the main page added some subcategories such as "Sinatra on Screen" and "Revisionist Westerns."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Things I Really Didn't Need to See Theater

Shemp Howard in drag:

Even Shemp himself winces at the sight of hers--uh, himself:

(From Warner Archive's "Vitaphone Comedy Collection Volume Two," "Serves You Right")

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

Ride Along: Ice Cube's buddy comedy (with Kevin Hart) was DISSED by the MTV Movie Awards, according to Cube. How dare they give a meaningless award in a manufactured-for-TV pseudoevent to an actor who recently died young? What are they trying to do, honor his memory in some misguided attempt to touch people's hearts? I mean, come on, MTV--CUBE!

The Nut Job: I was saying the other day that it seems like it's pretty hard to make a really bad all-ages animated feature these days. This one might test that theory.

Black Nativity: Nice job releasing this just in time for, what, 7 months till Christmas! I mean, do they--oh, wait. Easter is coming up, huh? Carry on!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: The disappointing box office for this one probably killed any chance of Mike Myers getting his dream project, a big-screen reboot of "The Danny Kaye Show," off the ground.

The Invisible Woman: Ralph Fiennes as a director of a literary property is an interesting concept, but I can't help thinking this is one of these deals where they just rushed this out to retain their rights to make a Fantastic Four movie.

Stan Lee's Mighty 7: Beginnings: Hey, speaking of Stan, I totally missed his cameo in The Invisible Woman.

Philomena: A journalist helps a woman in her quest to find the boy she gave up decades ago. This could be a Hallmark movie, couldn't it? But it's directed by Stephen Frears, it stars Dame Judi Dench, and it received considerable critical praise and award recognition. So it's got that over a Hallmark movie. But does it have Catherine Bell? That would be a big N-O.

Date and Switch: I don't know anything about this movie, but I am including it because I think the title is kind of funny and I'm stunned a romantic comedy hasn't used it before.

Beverly Hillbillies Season 4 and Petticoat Junction Season 3: These two CBS releases get wide release after being Wal-Mart exclusive since the fall. Yep, once again, that snooty, elitist Wal-Mart crowd gets to lord it over the rest of us. Well, now the MASSES can buy your highfalutin sitcoms, Wal-Mart! What do you think about that?

Warner Archive brings us a great quartet of oldies this week. George Raft and Bill Bendix in Race Street, The Mickster and Eddie Bracken in the odd duck A Slight Case of Larceny, Sky Full of Moon, and the intriguing Wildcat Bus with Fay Wray. "Sky Full of Moon" has an odd cover, with a  dude's butt staring right at us and in front of that big moon. "Wildcat Bus" just sounds all kinds of awesome. Check out this description from the WA page:

Fay Wray, best known for struggling in the clutches of King Kong, confronts rivals who use saboteur tactics to put the squeeze on the Federated Bus Lines she manages in Wildcat Bus. Wray is not the only woman in a position of power in this unusual B-movie: Behind the criminal organization that causes the breakdowns and accidents plaguing Federated’s Los Angeles San Francisco route is tough. vinegary “Ma” Talbot (character actress Leona Roberts).

Whoa! I can't wait to see this if only for the vinegary "Ma" Talbot!

And in streaming...

Hulu didn't do much of interest this week, though it didn't crash when I watched "Community" and "Modern Family," so that's a big plus. I'm beginning to think that story about more CBS shows appearing on Hulu was an elaborate hoax.

Hey, late-breaking news! Hulu just added the entire run of Penn & Teller's Bullsh*t! Well, that's something! I wonder if these are edited. Hmm...

Warner Archive Instant added a little tribute to The Mickster, packaging some previously available movies together into a little showcase Mickey Rooney line. More importantly, it added about a dozen and a half new movies, including several Bowery Boys flicks from the Volume 1 DVD collection. Sadly, the pro wrestling flick "No Holds Barred" (not the Hulk/Zeus one) isn't one of them, but who am I to complain when 3 Boys pictures are added?

Also new is the Boys--Wheeler and Woolsey, that is--in Cracked Nuts. WIN! Nicely timed is the arrival of Big Leaguer, with Eddie G as a major league skipper. Any baseball fan should check it out. WIN! There are also a couple of Gildersleeve pics, Congo Maisie, and for those of you who like your A pictures, Flight Command with Robert Taylor. And how about Hollywood Party (1934), with Jimmy Durante, Lupe Velez, and a host of awesome cameos including the 3 Stooges and Laurel and Hardy? This is actually a pretty darn good week for WAI.

Netflix premiered Mark Burnett's The Bible miniseries, a cool seasonal addition. By the way, I added the Mark Burnett part; fortunately, he wasn't arrogant to affix his name to it. Luc Besson's comedy The Family (De Niro, Pfeiffer) is here as well.

G.I. Joe: The One with The Rock (I may have the subtitle wrong) debuted this week. I am not on board this franchise yet, but I'd pay money to see it if Tight Ship were involved. This arrives as part of the Epix deal Netflix has, an agreement which should make fans of recent theatricals very happy because it seems to provide most of those big movies Netflix touts in its advertising. However, it also brings some interesting original Epix specials and documentaries. Case in point: Milius, a look at the macho screenwriter ("Apocalypse Now") and director ("Red Dawn").

Hey, I had no idea Werner Herzog made a documentary about texting while driving, but here comes From One Second to the Next. There is a bunch more Cartoon Network stuff, and also some CNN series like Crimes of the Century and Morgan Spurlock's Inside Man. But for those of you into the classics, there's the original Leprechaun--yep, the one with Jennifer Aniston.

Friday, April 11, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

The Big Valley Season 2: Ahem.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug: Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night having dreamed I was still in the theater watching yet another false finish in the third "Lord of the Rings" movie.

Justin Beiber's Believe: Even with his supposed rabid following, the punk only gets a 1.6 average rating on IMDB for this concert film. Yeah, that's hardly scientific, but it's funny, and it makes him look bad, so let's roll with it.

August: Osage County: What a treat it is to see talented actresses like Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts going toe to toe in an intense family comedy/drama. I mean, for those who are into that kind of thing. Me,  I think I'll skip to the more lowbrow...

Grudge Match: Yeah, this is more my style. Sly  Stallone and Bobby DeNiro play off their histories to play two aging (OK, old) fighters who duke it out one more time because--because--because--well, I'm sure there's a good reason in there somewhere, and it probably involves money. You know how sometimes you know in your head a movie is terrible, but somewhere maybe in your left elbow you think it could be worth it? Kind of the deal here.

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones: You know a franchise is way out of hand when it just dumps the numerals.

Night of the Hunter (Criterion): I have a pretty good DVD of this already, but Criterion usually improves on just about anything.

The 400 Blows (Criterion): Hey, I've never seen this, and I admit, given the choice, I'd watch "Night of the Hunter again (ducks). But then, I'm the guy who just admitted who might watch Grudge Match."

Family Matters Season 4: I have to admit  I kind of want to see this fourth-season episode (description from Wikipedia): Carl and Urkel get into a feud, and decide the only way to settle their grievances is to compete on American Gladiators,

Mayberry RFD Season 1: What could I say about this that hasn't been said in 3 years' worth of great work by the unofficial Mayor of Mayberry (ooh, I hope he realizes that's meant as a compliment)?

The Bobby Darin Show: This might have been a really cool release, but 13 episodes, 420 minutes? Did I mention it was an hourlong presentation when it aired in 1973? It looks like it's heavily edited, which is understandable for a variety show, but the price is pretty high for 13 shows that are so heavily trimmed.

In streaming, Hulu Plus added an original series called Deadbeats, a sitcom starring Tyler "I'm not Jack Black" Labine as a guy who can interact with dead spirits and help them fulfill their unfinished business. The previews make this seem surprisingly good. I will give this one a shot.

Also, while wandering around the vast Hulu catalog, I discovered that they added another season of Route 66. Hey, that's great! But I never would have known if I hadn't been browsing the "channel" where it's located and then clicked the show to look. There ought to be a little "NEW EPISODES" tag for me on a show to which I "subscribe."

Warner Archive Instant is due for a big update probably right after I post this, but it was quiet this week. No word on the Botchlist--uh, Watchlist feature, either.

Acorn Media added 4 more seasons of family show Wild at Heart, plus new seasons--excuse me, series--of Time Team, Jack Irish, Line of DutyThe Brief, and Land Girls. Much of this sounds great, but I wish Acorn could add more older programmes. It seems that in its new adds lately, it is focusing on material from this century. I don't know, maybe there isn't a lot more TO add from the 1970s and 1980s? Acorn did add season 1 of Lovejoy with Ian MacShane from 1986. It would be nice to seem more old school added.

Am I forgetting someone? Oh, yes, Netflix!

Netflix brings Short Poppies, a Kiwi comedy  from Rhys Darby, and while I'm not a fan, it's a cool get for those who are.

A few months ago I was raving about the box cover for Rapturepalooza with Anna Kendrick. Now I can see it for "free!" The Last Days of Mars with Live Schrieber might be an interesting sci-fi flick. There are also a few interesting documentaries old (Sherman's March) and new (When Jews Were Funny  and Let the Fire Burn about the 1985 MOVE incident in Philadelphia).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cut that cord! Cut that cord!

I am still crunching the numbers, working my sources, and scouring the underground as I prepare this week's video column, so in the meantime let me present another installment of Cut the Cord Theatre. I could go off on a rant and gripe about this item, but sometimes no additional commentary need be made.  So, courtesy of Deadline, I present this tidbit, which in this form alone is enough to indicate that this particular cable channel need not be anywhere on my lineup:

Oxygen Media unveiled seven new original series for its 2014 slate today under new president Francis Berwick and said it is planning a rebrand for later this year “targeting modern, young women.” Docu-series on the roster range in subjects from finding the next female hip-hop star (executive produced by rapper T.I.) to comediennes, and competition series involving street artists and nail designers.

Who was Oxygen targeting before? Old-fashioned young women?

Also, while roaming the dial the other night, I discovered that Bravo is actually airing a half-hour program that shows people watching TV. I wish I were kidding. We can do better, America! Well, maybe Bravo can't, but the rest of us can!
Oxygen’s new shows include “Fix My Choir” and “Street Art Throwdown”
Oxygen is also adding “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” and “Nail’d It” to its lineup.

Oxygen’s new shows include “Fix My Choir” and “Street Art Throwdown”
Oxygen is also adding “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” and “Nail’d It” to its lineup.
Oxygen’s new shows include “Fix My Choir” and “Street Art Throwdown”
Oxygen is also adding “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” and “Nail’d It” to its lineup.
Oxygen’s new shows include “Fix My Choir” and “Street Art Throwdown”
Oxygen is also adding “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” and “Nail’d It” to its lineup.
Oxygen’s new shows include “Fix My Choir” and “Street Art Throwdown”
Oxygen is also adding “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” and “Nail’d It” to its lineup.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New at Classic Flix: My epic review of Big Valley Season 2

I wrote a feature-length review of Timeless' DVD set of Season 2 of "The Big Valley"--the first video release of the show since 2007--and it was posted day and date--yesterday--at ClassicFlix. A little tease is below, but  read the whole thing here:

The Big Valley - Season 2
By Rick Brooks
It's not quite as dramatic as the proverbial cavalry thundering forward on horseback to save a besieged wagon train, but Timeless Media Group pulls off an impressive rescue by freeing The Big Valley from the barren, unforgiving desert of DVD limbo. The complete Season 2 set arrives 7 years after Fox ceased production after 1 ½ seasons. That's right, 1 ½. Fox released Season 1 in a single collection before splitting Season 2 but leaving fans hanging after the first volume.

Now all 30 episodes of Season 2 (1966-1967) are available on 5 discs. I doubt that I have to sell existing fans on this, though they may be concerned that 6 hour-long episodes are packed on each individual...

Friday, April 4, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching Part 2 (the streaming)

Hulu did nothing of note this week except annoy the hell out of me with a few lame April Fool's Day jokes. I logged on Tuesday morning and saw in the spotlighted shows section a picture of Terry Crews in "The Field," a spinoff from the producers of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." I didn't expect a real full-length series, but I thought maybe they had some bonus shorts or something. No, it was just a joke. Ha ha. At least Netflix put some actual content up and didn't promote it on the main page--at least not that I saw. I guess I would have known something was up had Hulu either gone all the way and made all the spotlighted shows goofs, or had I seen the Hannibal cooking spinoff, but I either ignored or didn't see the Hannibal thing.

I emailed Warner Archive Instant about the utter uselessness of its Watchlist feature given my inability to delete titles from it, its apparent 100-title max, and the continued presence of expired titles (and the fact that when I try to delete them, it crashes the channel). I got a few very nice responses telling me the issues were both known and were being worked on. Hey, I'm just glad to know it's not just me. Hopefully it'll be resolved soon.

In the meantime, I talked a lot about the new update on Sunday. This week, they added a few stray movies and another set of James Fitzpatrick TravelTalks. Plus a new Showcase of existing titles being packaged together was created--adaptations of Broadway plays. I'm thinking there may be a full update this weekend.

I'll tell you who has done something this week: Netflix, which added a bunch of Cartoon Network programming at the end of March. A few weeks ago I said I wanted to give the Green Lantern animated series another try. Well, now I can! I think some of the material was already available, but it looks like a lot of it is new. It's worth investigating if you're into that stuff.

Jim Rash's Sundance Channel series The Writers' Room is now streaming. Also, just in time for the last season, here comes Mad Men season 6.

The April 1 catalog drop includes a bunch of repeats like Barton Fink and Chinatown, but also some more of those Fox classics that trickle in each month. Some of the more interesting older movies that jump out include Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, There's No Business Like Show Business, Man Hunt, The Odd Couple, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Rocky I through V, The Graduate, the 1935 Les Miserables, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Bells of St. Mary's, and Stuart Saves His Family.

OK, that last one really doesn't belong in that group, but it IS available.

Some new and returning genre fare: Cotton Comes to Harlem, The Terminator, The Running Man, all 4 Death Wish movies (there were only 4, right?), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Dragonslayer (I had the comic adaptation, but I don't remember seeing the entire movie).

Some of the more recent notable titles include Amistad, No Holds Barred (hey, give me a break), the full run of House (that wasn't already there?), Going Ape (I keep telling myself I'm gonna sit down and watch it, and it keeps expiring before I do), Disney Jr, series The Hive, Titanic, The Muppets Take Manhattan (wouldn't it be great to see "The Muppet Show" on Netflix? Answer: YES), Braveheart, and Mean Girls.

If that ain't enough, how about a Crackle update? In addition to the monthly batch of Seinfeld (and unfortunately several have been in recent months' batches), there is...well, it's hard to tell what's new on Crackle, but I think Lost in Translation and Paul Blart: Mall Cop are. And the channel is touting its "first ever original feature," Extraction, a martial arts B-movie, but that's apparently been up for a while. Oddly, it's in the "featured TV category. Crackle has some kinks to work out, folks!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching: Part 1 (The Discs)

Last week's marathon 3-parter left me a bit drained, but the presence of blockbusters like 47 Ronin energizes me! Let's do this, folks!

47 Ronin: Ah, no, I can't start with it. Save it for later.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Hopefully this under-the-radar sleeper gets a little promotion and can find an audience on home video.

The Bag Man: How bad can a crime flick be when it has John Cusack and Bobby De Niro? Has to be worth a shot, right?

The Little Rascals Save the Day: I had no idea they were doing a new Little Rascals movie. Probably a good thing. I like this line from an Amazon customer review:

Great for your kids to get off the computer or tablet to sit and watch a nice family movie with you.

"Hey, kids, I'm tired of you sitting around all day communicating with people on that thing! Come over here and stare at the television with me!"

The Pirate Fairy: I saw the title and smirked. Then I saw Christina Hendricks in the cast list, and I got a certain mental image and figured, "Well, it wouldn't hurt to see what it's about!" Then I saw it was a cartoon and was disappointed. Then I saw it was a Disney Fairies movie and realized, hey, my daughter might like it. What a roller coaster of emotion. If only the film itself can be so stimulating...

47 Ronin: OK, everyone knows this is a colossal bomb. I don't feel like dumping on Keanu Reeves, though. Is it his fault someone thought it would be a good idea to sink hundreds of millions on this? Keanu seems to mind his own business, and he's not hurting me any, so I am not gonna rip him. Do I want to see "47 Ronin"? Hell, no.

T.J. Hooker Seasons 1 and 2: You mean, Mill Creek is re-releasing the first two seasons in one package with a suggested retail price of 15 bucks? Is this some kind of cruel April Fool's joke? No, it's the truth!

Ultimate Warrior: WWE buried the guy in a previous documentary release titled "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior." Now he's back in the fold long enough to accept a Hall of Fame induction and maybe make the company a few bucks, so here's a newer, presumably more "balanced" version of the story. That's showbiz!

Warner Archive brings us:

The Class: At first I thought this was the old Fox show Class of '96, which featured Kari Wuhrer. Remember that series? I do. I really liked Kari Wuhrer.

This is a short-lived sitcom from "Friends" co-producer David Crane, featuring a now-more-interesting-than-it-appeared-then cast of names like Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), and Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex). Here I'd like to remind fans of series like 77 Sunset Strip that the Archive is working on many different series, many of which have clearance or elements issues that are delaying their release, so don't put your foot through your computer just because they are issuing a failed 8-year-old show instead of one of those classics.

The Last Mrs. Cheyney: This is the Norma Shearer version of--wait, this movie just came out a few weeks ago, and it had Joan Crawford and William Powell. You mean to tell me...TWO movies with the same name? What manner of sorcery is this?

Her Cardboard Lover: Shearer's last role was this 1942 George Cukor feature, a romantic comedy way ahead of its time. In it, Shearer strikes up a bizarre romance with a cardboard cutout of Robert Taylor her daughter buys at Hot Topic.

Streaming news comes tomorrow!