Finally Amazon Prime Beats Netflix

No, Amazon Prime does not have more movies. Yes, Netflix has a much better interface. No Amazon Prime does not have more television shows. Yes, Netflix has won every contest I’ve thrown out. No, Amazon Prime is not cheaper (sort of). So how does Amazon Prime beat Netflix?

Classic science fiction, that’s how. Amazon Prime currently has an outstanding selection of classic science fiction from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

When Worlds Collide: “An impending collision with a runaway star signals the destruction of earth.”

The Time Machine: “A Victorian Englishman travels to the far future and finds that humanity has divided into two hostile species. ”

Forbidden Planet: “A starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet’s colony only to find two survivors and a deadly secret that one of them has. ”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: “A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. ”

The Blob: “An alien lifeform consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows. ”

Logan’s Run: “Futuristic thriller stars Michael York as a policeman seeking to escape the confines of a hedonistic and domed society where people who reach 30 are exterminated.”

Time After Time: “H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper through 19th-century London to modern-day San Francisco when the serial murderer uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period.”

Soylent Green: “This is the year 2022. Overcrowding, pollution, and resource depletion have reduced society’s leaders to finding food for the teeming masses. The answer is Soylent Green.”

Barbarella: “In the far future, a highly sexual woman is tasked with finding and stopping the evil Durand-Durand. Along the way she encounters various unusual people. ”

Westworld: “A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park. ”

THX 1138: “Set in the 25th century, the story centers around a man and a woman who rebel against their rigidly controlled society. ”

The Man who Fell to Earth: “Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however. ”

Amazon Prime members get all of these films for streaming. Out of that sweet dozen, Netflix members get The Man who Fell to Earth. On the other hand, Netflix subscribers get Planet of the Apes (1968), Fahrenheit 451, The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) while Amazon Prime users do not.

End of Summer – The Rest of the Movies

Obviously all the summer movies cannot be winners. I missed Snow White and the Huntsman, The Campaign, The Dictator, and Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. Here are the ones I caught that just didn’t work for me.

Dark Shadows: What should have been an ideal setup – revive a gothic soap opera as a movie directed by the man who did Sleepy Hollow – is instead a recipe for disaster. Unsure whether to make a gothic horror story, a fish out of water drama, a 70s redemption story, or a parody, Tim Burton made an unholy fusion of all of these, ineptly scripted by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Wow another great director, another epic disaster. Seth Grahame-Smith takes a great idea and totally screws up the script (hint: name-checking is not the same thing as writing). Director Bekmambetov has some nice visuals in the two action setpieces but nice visuals also don’t mean you have a good film.

Battleship: At least no one seemed to expect Battleship to be any good. Guess what? It wasn’t. The word farcical comes to mind.

The Watch: The unfortunately titled Neighborhood Watch got retitled after the Trayvon Martin incident. I liked the Costco setting but I don’t think I had an actual out loud laugh during the whole film. Neither did the three or four other people in the theater.

Total Recall: If you are going to remake a movie then either figure out what made the original tick (Schwarzenegger, the Martian setting, pure cheese) or have something original to say (like Carpenter’s remake of The Thing). Total Recall ditches Mars for an utterly generic futuristic city. The action is generic, the leads are generic, the script is generic – all this seems very odd to me as director Len Wiseman also did the very stylish Underworld series. Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy are wasted here.

The Bourne Legacy: The Bourne Legacy was so close. It had some very intelligent moments, which is what I look for in a Bourne film. I also loved the idea of a side story. Unfortunately the movie came across as more of a set up for future Bourne movies than a film in its own right and the whole exercise came across as a bit crass.

End of Summer – A Few More that I Enjoyed

Having covered my five favorites yesterday, here are the rest of the movies I enjoyed this summer:

Brave: I enjoyed Brave but did not find it to be a Pixar classic a la Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E. The animated short preceding the film is wonderful and Brave is a lot of fun.

Ted: I found Ted to be hilarious even though there were way too many fart jokes. Too crass and commercial but Wahlberg and Kunis are very likeable and I appreciated the running Flash Gordon gag.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted: This was surprisingly enjoyable. I will add the caveat that I do set the bar lower when I’m watching a film my granddaughter enjoys so this may not be that good but we had a lot of fun.

Men in Black III: This just narrowly missed my best of summer post. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are enjoyable as always but it is Josh Brolin’s portrayal of a young Agent K that seals the deal.

The Expendables 2: The film that capped off the summer. The Expendables 2 is a lot better than the first one. The Expendables 2 pokes a lot of fun at the cast – only the villains Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins appear to be taking it seriously. Willis and Schwarzenegger have much bigger roles this time including action scenes. Jet Li’s role is reduced but they added Chuck Norris to the cast.

* I would have enjoyed The Expendables 2 anyway but my daughter won me a Chuck Norris autographed poster. I can’t wait to frame it and put it in my movie room.

End of Summer – Time for a Report Card – My Favorites

Well we are fast approaching Labor Day aka The End of Summer. I have been blessed this year to have been able to see most of the summer films. Here are my favorites:

The Avengers: The Avengers is absolutely the best of the summer movies.The heroes are all wonderful (even if Hulk gets all the big laughs), the villain is quite heinous, the action is constant and for comic book fans, there are tons of character beats and plenty of hero face-offs before the big finale.

The Dark Knight Rises: How do you follow-up the best Batman movie? Christopher Nolan did it by making an even better Batman movie. That was The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises is wonderful but flawed. The themes are marvelous and the plot intricate but some of Bane’s dialogue remains unintelligible, a key scene between Bruce and Alfred is thrown away, and a few things just don’t gel right.

Prometheus: I really wanted to love this film and I did. That does not mean that I’m ignorant of the glaring faults contained within. I really enjoyed Charlize Theron’s ice cold executive but it is Michael Fassbender’s performance that commands every scene.

The Amazing Spider-Man: I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this, especially as I thought Sam Raimi and his cast had done two definitive Spider-Man movies with all the definitive roles perfectly cast. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are wonderful here and they are the reason the movie is so good.

The Hunger Games: Okay not technically a summer movie but I only just caught this one at a second-run theater. I found The Hunger Games to be quite good though necessarily skimming through the book. The funny thing is that the action scenes are terrible – the usual over-reliance on shaky-cam to give the impression of urgency. The rest of the movie is really good as are the performances, particularly Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.

A Little Hulu & Netflix This ‘n’ That

* The expectation is that Provident Equity will be bought out of Hulu next month. This would leave just ABC/Disney, NBC/Comcast and Fox/News Corp owning Hulu. According to Variety, Fox wants to increase ads from two or three per break to four (ugh!). ABC and Fox will be able to have exclusives on their own sites instead of Hulu (double ugh!). ABC and Fox will also be able to sell current seasons to other interested parties (Netflix, Youtube) so that could hurt Hulu.

* Hulu has also completely redesigned their interface. If it hasn’t rolled out to you yet, it will soon.

* Netflix has just added “Post Play”. Instead of just queueing up the next episode of a series, it will now play the next episode after about fifteen seconds. For movies it will offer you three suggestions based on what you just watched (presumably that one is not an auto-start). More good news for those of us who like to watch marathons (like the Breaking Bad one I’m hoping to do soon).

* Netflix’ latest deal is with indie film distributor Fortissimo. They are licensing over sixty films for streaming starting next month. The deal includes films from directors Jiang Wen, Mika Kaurismaki, and Clara Law.

* Netflix just hit one million subscribers in the United Kingdom and Ireland. How much longer before they rule the world?

* Netflix finally added people search to their Xbox 360 interface. Now you can watch all your favorite stars without having to remember whether Charlton Heston was in Touch of Evil or Force of Evil.


Mid-Month Netflix Additions – Mostly Stand-Up

As usual Netflix had a slew of additions mid-month.

The biggest set seems to belong to stand-up comedy: Bill Burr: You People are All the Same, Craig Ferguson: A Wee Bit O’ Revolution, Margaret Cho: Beautiful, Aisha Tyler is Lit: Live at the Fillmore, Greg Behrendt: Is That Guy from That Thing, Steve Byrne: The Byrne Identity, Alex Reymundo: Red-Nexican, Donnell Rawlings: From Ashy to Classy and Colin Quinn: Long Story Short.

After complaining that Netflix had no quality or even mediocre shark movies for shark week, they brought out The Reef. It falls on the mediocre side of things but there you go. Other new horror-ish offerings include Super 8, Piranha, Snow Beast, and Chain Letter.

The rest of the movies are an odd lot: The Motorcycle Diaries, In the Land of Blood & Honey, Glengarry Glen Ross, In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds, and one of the movies I missed at ActionFest, Badass.

While Netflix has yet to iron out their Prime Suspect snafu, there are plenty of other offerings from British television: Poldark, Lady Chatterley, Bramwell, Touching Evil, and more seasons (series) of Doc Martin.

Other television offerings include: Wilfred, Legacy: The Origins of Civilization, and the television miniseries Les Miserables and Doctor Zhivago.

And what would an update be without a new Nicolas Cage film: Seeking Justice is his latest direct-to-video offering.

The Expendables week – Rest of the Cast

Well time to wrap up the week. I’ve covered Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Van Damme and Willis. The Expendables 2 also has Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture, and Scott Adkins but Netflix only has a few streaming titles for each of them.

The Cutter (2005) – Rated R

“When a kidnapping rescue mission goes horribly wrong, Detective John Shepherd (Chuck Norris) escapes his guilty conscience by trying to save an aging diamond cutter, Issac Teller (Bernie Kopell), who’s been abducted by an unknown madman. With the help of the Issac’s niece, Elizabeth (Joanna Pacula), Shep unravels his mysterious past … only to find that the cutter perfected his craft years earlier as an Auschwitz inmate.”

The only Chuck Norris streaming on Netflix is not one of his better ones. It is a rather generic shoot ’em up, beat ’em up. For Chuck Norris fans only.

The Terminator (1984) – Rated R

“In the post-apocalyptic future, reigning tyrannical supercomputers teleport a cyborg assassin known as the “Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to snuff Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son is destined to lead insurgents against 21st century mechanical hegemony. Meanwhile, the human-resistance movement dispatches a lone warrior (Michael Biehn) to safeguard Sarah. Can he stop the virtually indestructible killing machine?”

The Terminator is a classic for a reason. James Cameron is actually able to turn Arnold’s limited acting range into a positive. Arnold is fantastic as the unstoppable killing machine and is still a good thrill ride. Look for future Aliens stars Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and Bill Paxton (sporting a Mohawk).

Conan the Destroyer (1984) – Rated PG-13

“While on a quest to retrieve a magical gem, muscleman Conan vanquishes mortal and supernatural adversaries with help from his ham-fisted sidekick, a wacky wizard, a fierce woman warrior and a gigantic bodyguard. But there’s a traitor among the ranks.”

While not as good as the first Conan, Conan the Destroyer is a more family friendly version. It suffers from too much Dungeons & Dragons influence and some rather bizarre casting (Wilt Chamberlain? Grace Jones?).

The Scorpion King 2 (2008) – Rated PG-13

“Employing an all-new cast, this action-driven prequel to The Scorpion King tells the heroic tale of young Mathayus (Michael Copon) and his relentless quest for justice against an evil and powerful villain, King Sargon (Ultimate Fighting champ Randy Couture). Mathayus faces heart-stopping tribulations during his adventurous, odds-defying trajectory toward his ultimate destiny: becoming the formidable warrior king of an ancient desert empire.”

Wow Universal’s reboot of The Mummy with Brendan Fraser was a lot of fun. It made buckets of money so they made two sequels which were nowhere near as good. Here comes the bizarre part. Universal then went and made a prequel to the second film, The Scorpion King starring Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The Scorpion King 2 features Randy Couture instead of The Rock. There is even a Scorpion King 3 with Dave Bautista.

Ninja (2009) – Rated R

“An American studying the ancient martial art of ninjutsu in Japan finds his training put to the test when he’s summoned by his sensei to return to New York for a dangerous mission: protect a chest containing the weapons of a legendary ninja.”

Yet another one of those competing movie idea, Ninja came out the same time as Ninja Assassin. Ninja Assassin was originally titled Ninja and starred Korean pop sensation Rain. If you like Ninjas or Scott Adkins then you’ll enjoy this.

Bruce Willis – Expendables week

Bruce Willis only had a glorified cameo in The Expendables. I’m hoping that they give him a little beefier role this time around. Meanwhile here are some Willis action flicks on Netflix streaming.

12 Monkeys (1995) – Rated R

“In the year 2035, convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) volunteers reluctantly to be sent back in time by scientists to discover the origin of a deadly virus that wiped out nearly all of the earth’s population decades earlier. But when Cole is sent mistakenly to 1990 instead of 1996, he’s arrested and locked up in a mental hospital, where he meets a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and the son (Brad Pitt) of a famous virus expert (Christopher Plummer).”

12 Monkeys is not an action film but a fascinating science fiction film. Both Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt are wonderful here. Brad Pitt was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role and Julie Weiss was nominated for a Best Costume Design Oscar.

The Fifth Element (1997) – Rated PG-13

“In this imaginative sci-fi epic, a 23rd-century cabbie finds himself involved with a fetching alien who may hold the key to saving the world. But it’s curtains for planet Earth unless the duo can stay a step ahead of a demented villain named Zorg.”

Instead of a science fiction movie with some action like 12 Monkeys, The Fifth Element is an action film with science fiction trappings. Luc Besson fills the screen with energy and Gary Oldman is positively manic as our chief villain.

The Siege (1998) – Not rated

“Martial law is imposed in New York when U.S. military zealots abduct a Muslim religious leader and an army general cordons off Queens to form a detention camp. Two FBI agents team with a CIA operative to save the day in this action-packed thriller.”

The Siege is a very thoughtful film about terrorism that still manages to be entertaining. The stars are Denzel Washington and Annette Bening but Bruce Willis has a juicy supporting role as does Tony Shalhoub.

Tears of the Sun (2003) – Rated R

“Bruce Willis stars as Lt. A.K. Waters, a Navy SEAL sent to the jungles of embattled Africa to rescue a doctor (Monica Bellucci), arriving only to realize he must also save the refugees in the doctor’s care — even if it places his military career in jeopardy. Tracked by heavily armed guerillas, Waters and his men must guide 40 injured Nigerian patients to the Cameroon border in this epic action drama directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day).”

This is another entry in the White People Solve the World’s Problems genre. There are some good action sequences but I cannot really recommend it overall.

Set Up (2011) – Not rated

“A diamond heist goes horribly wrong, and the group of friends who sought to make a fortune must instead fight for their very survival. Bruce Willis, Ryan Phillippe and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson bring the firepower in this thriller.”

I have not seen this so I cannot comment on how good a thespian Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is. Perhaps half a dollar’s worth?

Dolph Lundgren – Expendables week

I love action movies but I’ve never been a particular fan of Dolph Lundgren. I will say however that he was a hoot in The Expendables and held his own in a fight with Jet LI. In addition to Stallone’s Rocky IV and The Expendables, Netflix has a bunch of Lundgren films available for streaming. Unfortunately I have not seen any of them.

Pentathlon (1994) – Not rated

“Olympian Eric Broger (Dolph Lundgren) is East Germany’s greatest hope for a gold medal. But Eric, weary of communist politics and the cruelty of his coach, Heinrich Müller (David Soul), defects to America, where he tries to establish a new life, despite Müller’s interference. As he falls for a local female athlete (Renee Coleman) and trains for a spot on the American team, Eric also uses his prowess to fend off the vengeful Müller.”

Men of War (1994) – Not rated

“A band of mercenaries led by the surly Nick Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren) is sent to a tropical paradise to secure it for a mysterious business venture. But upon arrival, the invaders discover a tribe of pacifists already living there. When Gunnar learns the truth about his mission, he realizes he’s fighting for the wrong side — and he’ll do anything to protect his new island friends. This action-adventure co-stars B.D. Wong and Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr.”

Hidden Assassin (1995) – Rated R

“Cuba’s U.S. ambassador is killed in New York City. In order to prevent a similar terrorist attack at the US-Cuba summit in Prague, the CIA sends Michael Dane (Dolph Lundgren), one of their best federal agents, to keep things under control. Nikita, a lesbian club owner, is the suspected killer, and just as Dane is sure the case is solved, he’s fighting for his life and using his brains, not his brawn, to survive.”

Silent Trigger (1996) – Rated R

“Waxman (Dolph Lundgren), an ex-commando with the Special Forces who’s now a professional assassin working for a shadowy government agency, finds himself in a fix after he botches his top-secret assignment. Next thing you know, the hit man and his gorgeous but deadly confederate (played by Gina Bellman) end up as the organization’s quarry in this direct-to-video action thriller from Aussie director Russell Mulcahy.”

The Peacekeeper (1997) – Rated R

“Against his superiors’ wishes, Air Force pilot Frank Cross (Dolph Lundgren) executes a daring food drop over a band of refugees. His willful actions leave him grounded, with a new assignment: to guard the president’s “black bag” which holds a computer enabling the commander in chief (Roy Scheider) to initiate a nuclear attack. Terrorists nab the attache case during an ambush, a hostage crisis ensues, and only Cross can foil the doomsday plot.”

Direct Contact (2009) – Rated R

“Imprisoned in Eastern Europe, former Special Forces agent Mike Riggins jumps at the chance when he’s offered his freedom in exchange for tracking down American Ana Gale, who’s been abducted by a brutal underground leader.”

Five Times the Van Dammage – Expendables week

Neglected in the first Expendables movie, it appears that JCVD will be the antagonist in The Expendables 2. The Muscles from Brussels will play the hilariously named Jean Claude Villain. Five of JCVD’s films are currently available on instant Netflix.

Hard Target (1993) – Rated R

“A cadre of villains hunts humans in New Orleans for evil kicks. When Yancy Butler’s father disappears, she asks Jean-Claude Van Damme to find him. Van Damme soon uncovers the villains’ twisted game, turning the hunters into the hunted.”

Easily the best of the five, Hard Target was John Woo’s first Hollywood movie. Wilfred Brimley is hilarious in it (partly unintentional) and Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo make good villains. There are some wonderful action setpieces here, especially a shootout in a Mardi Gras warehouse.

The Quest (1996) – Rated PG-13

“Action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme directed himself in the role of Chris Dubois, a 1920s New York City street criminal who’s kidnapped by gun smugglers, then sold to pirate captain Lord Dobbs (Roger Moore). He eventually hands Dubois over to master kickboxer Khao (Aki Aleong), who discovers Dubois’ excellent fighting skills and forces him to participate in a legendary Tibetan competition where one wrong move could cost him his life.”

Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) – Rated R

“Retired from his career as a Universal Soldier, Luc Deveraux works as a technical adviser on a hush-hush government project to design a smarter cyborg warrior. But he soon discovers that the supercomputer controlling the soldiers has its own agenda.”

How many times are they going to remake/reboot this? The original was in 1992 and was pretty fun. This was made in 1999 and while we lost Dolph Lundgren, we gain Bill Goldberg and Michael Jai White. The UniSols then went dormant until 2009’s Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Later this year we’ll get Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning with JCVD, Dolph Lundgren, and Scott Adkins, all of whom are in The Expendables 2.

Derailed (2002) – Rated R

“NATO undercover operative Jack Logan, who wants to get past the Slovakian border and safely into Frankfurt. Things seem to be going smoothly as Jack and Galina board the train posing as a “couple” but soon, all hell breaks loose!”

Assassination Games (2011) – Rated R

“The indestructible Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to big-screen mayhem in this light-’em-up action thriller, with rival assassins joining forces to dismantle a global drug cartel operating in league with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.”

Assassination Games teams Van Damme with Scott Adkins. Scott Adkins is a very physical action star but hasn’t found a good property yet. Assassination Games is unfortunately not that vehicle. This is enjoyable for Van Damme and Adkins fans only. Adkins is also in The Expendables 2.