New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 12/16/14

Another week, another set of streaming Netflix selections

Drive Hard

Action/Adventure: Drive Hard

Comedy: A Haunted House 2, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Nick Offerman: American Ham

I Am Ali

Documentary: I Am Ali, InRealLife, Korengal

Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street, In Your Eyes

Family: Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas, Get Santa

Foreign: Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Fanny, Marius, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, I Am Yours, Chinese Puzzle

Horror: Don’t Blink

Family Guy

Television: Broadchurch, Marco Polo, and new episodes of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Family Guy

Thriller: 36 Saints, The Village, Mystery Road

Curse You Peter Jackson!

In my opinion, Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels are unequivocal masterpieces. Simply put, Jackson worked magic with the wonderful natural locations in New Zealand, an incredible cast, top notch special effects, and, of course, did proper justice to the source material. I would happily watch these again and again. These have become my younger daughter’s Star Wars (and quite frankly they are better but they have had decades of film work on which to build).

The Hobbit

I was thrilled when it was announced that Jackson would be adapting The Hobbit. I was a little less thrilled when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would direct and that the book would be broken into two movies but I could still envision it. There is an awful lot of action in The Hobbit so two movies would be stretching but perhaps better than trying to overcrowd a single film.

I simply could not understand the decision to adapt the single book into three movies, and not three short movies but three epic length ones. I was hopeful when Jackson announced that it was so that additional material from Tolkien could be added.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out. It was not a terrible movie by any means but it was very disappointing. Here’s my summary: “We’re walking, walking, walking, RUN!, walking, walking, walking, RUN!, repeat until nearly three hours are done”. Rather than a finely prepared meal with thought given to how all the ingredients interact with each other, we were given a random hodgepodge of things meant to appeal to various fanbases.

Instead of carefully paced and choreographed action sequences, we have scenes that look more at home in a videogame, particularly the extra-long mine sequence. Jackson chose his cast quite well and Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis naturally reprise their roles as Gandalf and Gollum respectfully. Genre favorites Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are cast from Sherlock as is Sylvester McCoy from Doctor Who.

That apparently was not enough so he shoehorned in more cameos from Lord of the Rings than you could shake a staff at. He added a framing piece so that he could feature Ian Holm as old Bilbo and Elijah Wood as Frodo. He then added a council meeting so that Christopher Lee (Still going strong at 92!) could return as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, and Hugo Weaving as Elrond.

Hobbit Marathon

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is essentially the same, a wonderful world of Middle Earth, somewhat spoiled by lengthy videogame sequences, and characters shoehorned in. This time fan favorite Orlando Bloom has returned as Legolas. He is joined by Evangeline Lilly as female elf/superhero Tauriel. I applaud the sentiment as there aren’t enough women in the story but it was poorly handled.

Hobbit Marathon

In spite of all these complaints, here I sit at the Regal Biltmore Grande, prepared for an entire day of The Hobbit. Despite all the shortcomings, The Hobbit series presents a wonderful world and if you haven’t seen it at the high frame rate, you certainly should.

More Director’s Cuts – Apocalypse Now, The Act of Killing, Iron Sky

While Netflix only had Nightbreed out of the various director’s cuts I talked about, they do have a number of others available.

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now (1979) – Rated R

During the Vietnam War, Capt. Willard is sent to Cambodia on a top-secret mission to terminate Col. Kurtz, who’s gone completely insane.”

Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) – Rated R

Obviously Francis Ford Coppola’s other masterpiece should be seen on a big screen but, barring that, stick to the two and a half hour original. The Redux at three hours and fifteen minutes is still powerful but feels a little bloated.

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing (2012) – Not rated

A 2014 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature, this film follows two former Indonesian death squad leaders as they reenact war atrocities.”

The Act of Killing: The Director’s Cut (2012) – Not rated

The director’s cut is more than half an hour longer. I found the original to be a very brutal (yet riveting) sit through and another half hour might put me over the top so I’ll pass but fans of the original may like the additional footage.

Iron Sky

Iron Sky (2012) – Rated R

The Nazis retreated to the Moon in 1945, but after they’re discovered by an American shuttle in 2018, they relaunch their plans to invade Earth.”

Iron Sky: Director’s Cut (2012) – Not Rated

I have no idea why this quirky 2012 movie got a director’s cut. While it is eighteen minutes longer, it is not appreciably different from the original. I did not feel the extra running time added anything important. Iron Sky was a great concept that made for an entertaining, though not especially memorable, film. There is a sequel in development: Iron Sky: The Coming Race

 

 

Nightbreed – Clive Barker’s Director’s Cut

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut is currently available on instant Netflix

Nightbreed

 

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut (1990) – Unrated

Believing that he’s a serial killer, a troubled young man is drawn to an old cemetery where a variety of monsters are hiding from humanity.”

I loved Clive Barker’s short story anthologies, The Books of Blood. They were a breath of fresh, if nasty, air when they came out. Many authors, including Stephen King, had done horror short stories but Barker’s were quite different. They had an edge to them. He also had an idea that the humans were monsters and the monsters, human. This idea is pretty commonplace today but was not back in the 80s.

In 1987, Barker was able to parlay his success as an author into directing an adaptation of his work, The Hellbound Heart, into the movie Hellraiser. This was a wonderful work of sexual horror and appetite. Unfortunately it succeeded too well and people don’t remember the creepy sexual horror so much as the wonderful cenobite supporting characters. This led to a decent but inferior sequel and a vast number of really bad sequels.

In 1990, Barker gave us Nightbreed from his story Cabal. Unfortunately the studio severely compromised his vision, trying to make Nightbreed fit into a standard horror mold, stripping away the complex mythology Barker had built. Barker had filmed his vision but the parts had been lost for decades.

Finally, some incredible fans of Barker’s work were able to recover the missing elements and restore them so that now Barker’s original vision can be seen. Unfortunately for Barker, the times have moved on and what was once novel about Nightbreed is now fairly commonplace. His idea of a community of monsters has been filmed ad nauseum in the intervening decades, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to the Twilight series to Interview with a Vampire to the Underworld series and on and on.

All of this makes the director’s cut of Nightbreed more of a historical oddity than the classic it deserved to be. Still the director’s cut is significantly different from the studio version and is well worth watching. Some of the elements are a bit rough due to budgetary constraints and the condition of the missing footage. Today, Nightbreed would have been adapted as a series and it does beg for more.

This was such a specialty item that I didn’t think that Netflix would get it so I had it on pre-order from Amazon and received it only a week or two before it showed up on Netflix. Barker was so disgusted with the Hollywood system that he only attempted one more movie, Lord of Illusions (1995) before giving up entirely. His story, The Forbidden, was adapted by Bernard Rose into the move, Candyman (1992) and, of course, both Candyman and Hellraiser became cash cows, churning out sequels.

Candyman and Hellraiser are Barker’s two best films (skip the sequels) but the director’s cut of Nightbreed is a close third and well worth a watch on several levels. Yes, that is horror director David Cronenberg as Dr. Decker.

Attack of the Director’s Cut!

Things only last in their pure form for a short while after they have been named. So it is with the director’s cut. The director’s cut of a film took on significance when it was substantially different from the version released by Hollywood. It did not take Hollywood long to co-opt and market the term into insignificance.

Most director’s cuts are simply a matter of a scene or two inserted into a film that does very little to change a film. The only more useless term is ‘unrated’. Unrated is used constantly on horror movies that were watered down for an all ages PG-13 release then they add back the few seconds of violence that was trimmed when it is released on home video and no longer needs a PG-13 rating.

Alien

Still there are some director’s cuts worth noting. The director’s cut of Alien does not appreciably change the film, simply changing a few takes and adding a fan favorite scene that slows down the narrative at a crucial moment. The original cut is actually better and clearly Ridley Scott should not be allowed to tinker too much as there are now, I think, five versions of Blade Runner available.

Speaking of someone who should not be allowed to touch his completed films, George Lucas actually took his original Star Wars trilogy (you know, the good one) and made it worse by cramming special effects shot after special effects shot into an already classic series of films. Since he owned the rights at the time, they weren’t even called director’s cuts. Obviously there is some hope now that since Disney owns the rights, Han will shoot first in the future.

Aliens

Getting back to Aliens, James Cameron’s directors cut of Aliens is almost half an hour longer than the U.S. cut. There are some great scenes reintroduced but the overall theme of motherhood is no longer subtle but seems rather sledgehammered home. I enjoy the director’s cut more but the U.S. cut is definitely tighter.

Aliens 3, one of David Fincher’s first films, is an incomprehensible mess. The longer cut, which restores much of his work, is not an actual director’s cut as Fincher has disavowed it. It does make the film much better than it has a right to be. The basic premise of Alien 3 was a huge middle finger to those that loved Aliens. It was also made at the dawn of CGI and the CGI is just awful in many scenes.

Kingdom of Heaven

In addition to Blade Runner and Alien, there is also a director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. Ridley Scott filmed a fabulous epic of the Crusades that suffered from three faults. First, it starred Orlando Bloom who, while not bad, cannot carry the film. Second, it presents Muslim characters in a reasonable light and shows many Christian ones as fanatics. While that is historically accurate, this was too soon after 9/11 for audiences to embrace. The third fault was that the studio decided to cut it from well over three hours (epic length) to just under two and a half (summer blockbuster length). Gone were many subplots and much comprehensibility. The director’s cut restores the subplots making the film the near-classic it should have been.

Which brings us to tomorrow’s topic: the highly anticipated director’s cut of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 12/9/14

Another week, another set of streaming movies – favorites would be House of Flying Daggers, Oculus, and the newly restored Director’s Cut of Nightbreed. This is one case where the director’s cut is SIGNIFICANTLY different from the release version.

Anime: Eureka Seven

Anchorman 2

Comedy: Camp Takota, Aluna, Anchorman 2, Anchorman 2: Supersized version, Bill Burr: I’m Sorry You Feel That Way

Documentary: Legends of the Knight, Andrew Jenks Room 335, The Magic of Heineken, The Improv: 50 Years Behind the Brick Wall

Drama: 4 Minute Mile, 1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story, Frontera

Faith: The Gospel According to John

Family: Ava & Lala

House of Flying Daggers

Foreign: House of Flying Daggers, King of Devil’s Island

Nightbreed

Horror: Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut, Oculus, Sharknado 2: The Second One

Television: Human Prey, In Need of Romance, Shut Up & Let’s Go, Dogs with Jobs, Mighty Machines and a new season of American Horror Story (woohoo!)

 

The Hobbit Marathon

The Hobbit

 

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Bilbo and Company are forced to be embraced in a war against an armed flock of combatants and the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.”

I love movie marathons. This time, they have found a wonderful new incentive. The Hobbit marathon is the only way to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies early.

Five Armies officially opens on Wednesday, December 17th. This means that theaters will be playing early shows on Tuesday, December 16th BUT if you go to the marathon on Monday, December 15th then you get to see Five Armies on the 15th.

Hobbit Marathon

Regal is also pulling out the stops and putting the marathon in Imax and RPX theaters. Honestly, what else are people going to be doing on a Monday in mid-December. My assumption is that this will be at the HFR as well. Regal is also planning on issuing a coupon (for RCC members) for a $7 large combo because you will need those FREE refills during your eight and a half hour ordeal.

Epic, Cinemark, AMC, and several other chains are also participating in the marathon.

2015 – Squee! or Sequelitis

Hollywood loves Marc. Well, Hollywood loves 50 year old Marc’s money and is willing to give him what he wanted when he was 15. Certainly I can hear critics bemoaning the lack of originality in 2015’s film slate but I am seriously excited.

Avengers Age of Ultron

I am looking forward to the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy (it seems more his than Tolkien’s at this point). I am not however excited by it. This holiday season has seen the release of trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and Star Wars Episode 7. I am VERY excited about all three of these. In fact by this time next year, I would expect to own the first two on Blu-ray and be just a short time from seeing the third in theaters.

Jurassic World

As if all of this were not enough of reliving my childhood, we get a brand new Mad Max film in May, a new Terminator film in July, and yet still another James Bond movie in November (this one with Christoph Waltz as Blofeld!). With these and others, my movie theater bill is going to be terrible next year.

Star Wars Force Awakens

On the other hand, I can see where original ideas may be completely squeezed out. In addition to the above, we have the following numbered sequels releasing next year: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Woman in Black 2, Taken 3, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Furious 7, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pitch Perfect 2, Insidious 3, Ted 2, Sinister 2, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II, Hotel Transylvania 2, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, Mission Impossible V, and Resident Evil 6.

Unnumbered sequels, continuations, remakes, and reboots include (but are certainly not limited to): Cinderella (live action), Paranormal Activitiy: The Ghost Dimension, Divergent: Insurgent, Entourage, The Transporter Legacy (without Statham boo!), Magic Mike XXL, Minions, Pan, Poltergeist, Point Break, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, Hitman Agent 47, London Has Fallen (sequel to Olympus Has Fallen), The Jungle Book, Vacation, Peanuts, and an untitled Friday the 13th sequel.

All of this makes 2015 exciting to me for the sheer comfort of returning to my childhood. I am sure there will be some original delights, diamonds in the rough but, regardless, I will be satisfied with all the bright, shiny things.

Regal Cinemas Wants Your Money!

Regal

 

Regal is really pushing to get people into theaters this month. For every $50 of Regal giftcards purchased, they will credit your Regal rewards card with 50 points. That is a FREE popcorn, soda, or movie ticket depending on where your points are at.

Every Monday is Movie Monday at Regal. For some reason, this is sponsored by Yahoo. You can get a coupon for a FREE drink when you buy a popcorn. This could be useful, especially if you go to The Hobbit marathon on Monday, December 15th. Mondays also have a featured $2 candy for rewards members.

Tuesdays, Regal offers a $2 small popcorn to cardholders. I also have to mention that AARP members get $3 off a popcorn/soda combo. I use that one all the time.

Interstellar

 

This week only (12/1-12/7 but perhaps it will be extended), Regal is offering buy two tickets to Interstellar and get one FREE. This is a lot weaker than their previous BOGO offerings but is still a good offer for larger than couple size.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for December

Wow, how did this year fly by so quickly?

Runaway Train

Action/Adventure: Adios Sabata, Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Redux, Black Rain, For Your Eyes Only, A Knight’s Tale, Live and Let Die, The Living Daylights, Mission: Impossible, Never Say Never Again, Runaway Train, Thief, A View to a Kill, You Only Live Twice

Goldfinger

Classic: From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Hondo, The Hustler

Comedy: 2 Days in the Valley, Bewitched, Crossroads, The Grand Seduction, Jewtopia, Necessary Roughness, The Out-of-Towners, Outside Providence, Waking Up in Reno

Documentary: Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life, McConkey, Medora, Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Drama: About Cherry, Ali, Almost Famous, American Beauty, Brightest Star, The Escape Artist, G.I. Jane, Hammett, An Innocent Man, Last Night, Legends of the Fall, Madison, One From the Heart, Perfect Sisters, Saturday Night Fever, Seven Years in Tibet, Stomp the Yard: Homecoming, Tetro, The Truman Show

Family: Dwegons and Leprechauns, Stuart Little 2, Troop Beverly Hills, Unstable Fables: Tortoise vs. Hare, VeggieTales: Veggies in Space, What She Wants for Christmas

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Batman Forever, The Dark Crystal, Frequencies, Heavenly Sword, Labyrinth, The People That Time Forgot

Foreign: Mosquita y Mari, Reincarnation

Knights of Badassdom

Horror: Damien: Omen II, Darkness, The Deadly Bees, The Dentist, The Dentist II: Brace Yourself, Dracula II: Ascension, Friday the 13th 1-8 (Marathon time!), Knights of Badassdom, Omen III: The Final Conflict, The Omen (1976)

Television: Big and Small, Black Mirror, Chuggington, Doki, Love No Matter What, Velvet

Thriller: Jade, Out of Time, Panic Room