Monday, August 26, 2013

Expiration Watch: What's New Is Old

Netflix giveth, and Netflix taketh away. Passing into Instant exile—if not downright oblivion—are a number of significant titles, including a couple of Oscar winners and a handful of movies previously spotlighted here. Taking the hit are such stalwart directors as Howard Hawks, John Carpenter, Barry Levinson and Mike Figgis, as well as stars Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Dustin Hoffman, Ashley Judd, Burt Reynolds and Nicolas Cage. Not to mention James Caan and those pesky Bond films...

Speaking of Caan, it seems the original Rollerball—reviewed here as a new title only last week—was simply on a one-month streaming loan. As of August 31 at midnight, it will once again be skating off into the distance. Thanks for the tease, Netflix.

Also on loan were those eternally recurring James Bond films, which arrived on 8/1 and will be departing on 9/2. At this rate I suppose we can hope for another return in the near future? I've only been tracking these titles since April, so I'm not sure how regularly such shenanigans occur.

Other titles previously recommended are the dark, fictionalized(?) biopic of game show producer/assassin Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (review)—written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by George Clooney—and the wonderful coming-of-age comedy, Slums of Beverly Hills (review), with Natasha Lyonne as a brashly curious teen growing up with her nomadic family in 1970s Los Angeles. (10/1 Update: Confessions is now back!)

That brings us to this month's new expiring entries, starting with a couple of notable Oscar winners.

Rain Man (1988)

The big winner at 1989's Academy Awards—taking Best Picture, Actor, Director, and Screenplay—this road movie/comedy-drama is notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Tom Cruise's underrated performance playing off Dustin Hoffman's showy, award-winning title character. Tom does great tantrum, and you're missing out if you've never heard Hoffman mutter, "I'm an excellent driver."

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Director Mike Figgis pulls out a Best Actor performance from live-wire Nicolas Cage, in the process garnering nominations for co-star Elisabeth Shue as well as direction and screenplay. Shot guerilla-style on 16mm, this film bounces and moves and breaks your heart. Cage is mesmerizing as the self-destructive protagonist, never losing our sympathy despite his character's messy death wish. Shue, who sadly has never been given such a layered, complex role again, was robbed on this one. She deserved that Oscar, damn it.

Scarface (1932)

On his way to perfecting the screwball comedy, the Western, and the adventure film, director Howard Hawks helped invent the gangster picture with this rough and ready pre-Code thriller. With a script by Ben Hecht, and starring Paul Muni as the violent, merciless Tony Camonte (who happens to love his sister, the poor sap), the gloves come off in a way that wouldn't be seen again until Hollywood's Production Code was fitted with concrete galoshes. In the '80s, of course, we saw just how violent a Scarface could be, in Brian DePalma's flashier, decidedly inferior remake. And while Al Pacino can snort coke and fire machine guns like nobody's business, there's something feral and predatory about Muni's original.

The Longest Yard (1974)

Burt Reynolds, at the beginning of what would be a decade or so of white-hot stardom, plays a former professional football player who ends up leading a prison team after finding himself in the slammer. I saw this one a loooong time ago, but I remember it being quite enjoyable—a nice mix of comedy, drama, and sports film from director Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen, Ulzana's Raid, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?). And I think it's safe to say it's far preferable to the Adam Sandler remake.

No Way Out (1987)

With two breakout roles in the same year (the other was The Untouchables), Kevin Costner proved once and for all he had what it took to be a movie star (that was before Waterworld and The Postman, of course). This crackling, suspenseful thriller from director Roger Donaldson—a remake of The Big Clock—keeps you guessing until the last frame. Simultaneously proving her acting chops was Sean Young—not long before her own career flameout, alas—whose on-screen dalliance with Costner in the back of a limo is one of those Sex Scenes to Remember. Gene Hackman does his usual great job, as Costner's boss.

The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter brings an icky, in-your-face sensibility to his remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 original. Where the first version emphasized shadows and dread and things unseen, this update delights in its then state-of-the-art monster effects (taken to grand guignol heights by makeup master Rob Bottin). It's scary and gross and consciously over the top, and would make a great double feature with the even zanier Re-Animator.

Bug (2006)

I try not to recommend titles I haven't actually seen, but I've heard good things about this one from friends and critics. Although billed as a horror film, director William Friedkin maintains it's really a "black comedy love story." But, you know, with creepy, crawly bugs (real or imagined) and a bit of self-mutilation. Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon contribute intense performances, while Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) builds steam with a late-career renaissance that also includes the recent Killer Joe.

August 1

Fire and Ice (1983)

August 9

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)

August 26

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

August 30

Good Will Hunting (1997)

August 31

Bug (2006)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)  - REVIEW
F/X (1986)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
The Longest Yard (1974)
Meet the Parents (2000)
No Way Out (1987)
The Omen (1976)
Rain Man (1988)
Rollerball (1975) - REVIEW
Scarface (1932)
Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) - REVIEW
The Thing (1982)
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

September 1

Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Never Say Never Again (1983)
License to Kill (1989)
Goldeneye (1995)

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