Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Leaving the Queue: "Not quite as bad as last time, but still... a shame."

It's that time again, as little red dates have started showing up in the columns of my Instant Queue.

Yes, it's time to say goodbye to several titles that are leaving Netflix in a much lamentable fashion (well, at least for some). A few are tremendous, a few are just idle curiosities, and at least one is a Saturday Matinee that is only worth watching with friends.

Still, I'm sad to see all of these go... for one reason or another... but, let's get started.

Fire and Ice

Ralph Bakshi, love him or hate him, has created some of the most iconic feature-length animation in the history of the medium. Instead of forcing animation to be kid's fare, he very purposefully has created adult content, telling mature-audience stories for almost half a century at this point... though, his heydays were definitely in the 70's and 80's.

Telling an epic, but lowbrow, fantasy tale of the likes you'd see in Heavy Metal magazine, Fire and Ice is a rotoscoped sword and sorcery epic very much in the vein of Conan or Krull. It's hard to describe other than violent and sexual, with an eye for buxom damsels and buff adventurers.

The film itself can definitely be hit or miss depending on the viewer, but I like it for its AD&D mentality and liberal sexuality.

Paper Man

Moving on, we get Jeff Daniels, Ryan Reynolds, and Emma Stone in a slightly surreal tale about a previously successful writer (Daniels) suffering from massive writer's block who moves away from the city in order to find some semblance of peace, both from the pressure of his unfinished followup novel and the delusion that he has an imaginary superhero best friend (Reynolds) who is there to buck him up.

Along the way he meets a teen (Stone) with her own mental issues and the two form an unlikely bond over mild insanity and writing.

I like Paper Man both for its cast and its premise, though I can never rightly get behind the imaginary friend angle. Maybe if Reynolds' super hero weren't quite so over the top and more subtle like Kieran Culkin's Christopher.

An interesting movie, if not tremendous.

The 10th Kingdom

Now this one is a real shame, I think.

Cuter and sweeter than it's darker successors (Grimm and Once Upon A Time), The 10th Kingdom follows a young New Yorker who crosses over into the land of fairy tales and find adventure, mystery, and romance in what could easily pass as a well staged Renn Faire.

Bearing the same story crossovers of most modern fantasy films and series (Shrek, Fables, etc.), The 10th Kingdom was a ten hour NBC mini-series that had shockingly good production value for its era. With the mentality of Alice in Wonderland meets Grimm's Fairy Tales, the series pulled quite a few guest stars including Ann-Margaret, Ed O'Neill, and Dianne Wiest... as well as lead/supporting roles for Kimberley Williams, John Larroquette, and Scott Cohen.

It's saccharinly sweet, but very entertaining... alas, I just never found the time.

Shout-out to my sister, Erin, as this is one of her favorite series.

As Good As It Gets

This Oscar-winner is probably the most disappointing to lose.

Probably my favorite film of Nicholson's career, aside from The Shining, As Good As It Gets tells the tale of successful writer, but unsuccessful human being, Melvin who struggles to deal both with his OCD and his horrible personal skills (sound like anyone you know, dear readers?) in the face of relationship drama as his tries to woo the only woman who can seem to stand him (Helen Hunt) while trying to be a good friend and neighbor to the down on his luck Greg Kinnear.

If ever there was a Tsundere character in American Cinema, I think it would be Melvin... and I definitely think that it deserved the Oscar noms and nods that it got.

I think I could've done without Fat Harold Ramis, though... man, he really let himself go in the 90's.

Rat Race

Last, but not least, is Rat Race.

Well, maybe it is least, in this select group of films as I honestly enjoyed all of them (including Fire and Ice) more than I did Rat Race, but still... it's an okay movie.

Set in the vein of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Cannonball Run, Rat Race is a thousand mile road-race movie in which a group of random tourists in Vegas are selected by John Cleese and his henchmen to compete for a two million dollar prize... all so that, unknowing to the competitors, the super-rich can bet on their progress, or lack thereof, or... well, anything, really.

It's a silly ensemble piece that pulls from plenty of fine folks including Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Seth Green, Kathy Najimy, John Lovitz, and many more, with cameo bits for a plethora of familiar faces.

Often silly, occasionally very stupid (a Smash Mouth finisher?), Rat Race is a cute little matinee movie that is fairly safe for families to enjoy together even as it is unabashedly shallow in just about every aspect. Still, it's great to see all these funny people working on a fun movie.

And, yeah... I think that's it.  A mostly sad day as several excellent films and series make their adieus (along with several other "meh" films) in what has become a regular, lamentable cycle, as titles drop off the stream.

See you, Space Cowboys.

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