Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spaced Gets the Axe, Dick Spared, Garcia Smolders

Well, it looks like The Dick Van Dyke Show's absence from streaming was only temporary. The series is officially back online. That means if you still haven't managed to check out this always funny and engaging program, you've got another chance to see what made it so special and such an integral part of TV history.

But before you catch up on the shenanigans of Rob and Laura Petrie & Co., take a few hours to check out the equally groundbreaking (if not as universally known) British comedy Spaced, scheduled to expire from Instant at midnight on the 17th (that's one minute past 11:59 P.M. on the 16th, for those who get confused by such things). As I wrote back in April, Spaced is far from your average britcom, and not only helped spawn the current era of post-modern television comedy (think 30 Rock and Arrested Development), it introduced the world to the talents of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Nick Frost, who went on to make Shaun of the Dead and this year's The World's End (among many others). Less well-known but equally praiseworthy is their partner-in-crime, Jessica Stevenson, who co-wrote and co-starred with Pegg and offers a brand of endearing daffiness all her own. Made up of only 14 episodes spread over two seasons, Spaced is perfect for a binge watch before it takes its leave.

A double dose of Garcia

But back in the Good News department, a number of other interesting titles returned to Netflix in December, including a recently mourned handful of Francis Ford Coppola films (including Apocalypse Now and One from the Heart), as well as Hal Ashby's entertaining, if uneven, macho thriller, Eight Million Ways to Die (1986). If you never understood the appeal of Andy Garcia, then watching him go toe to manly toe with Jeff Bridges, as an alcoholic ex-cop, should give you an idea of the incendiary nature of his talent. It's a slice of gritty, coke-filled L.A. as interpreted by the great Ashby (Shampoo, Being There, The Last Detail) by way of a profanity-laced Oliver Stone script.

Mutually assured smoldering
A few other gritty slices of neo-noir also came online, including another Garcia starrer, Mike Figgis' criminally underrated Internal Affairs (1990). Garcia plays the good guy this time, while Richard Gere handles the scenery-chewing bad-guy duties. And boy does he deliver. You can practically see the slime glistening from his body, as he radiates a combustible mix of nastiness and charm. Also ready to stream is Abel Ferrara's notorious Bad Lieutenant, with Harvey Keitel as a tortured Catholic cop living on the edge in a city gone to hell; and Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature, Hard Eight, which is as confident a debut as you're likely to see and only hinted at the talent of the man whose next films would be Boogie Nights and Magnolia (I'm also a fan of Punch-Drunk Love, the non-Adam Sandler comedy starring Adam Sandler.)

One other notable debut: Targets (1968), a low-budget thriller that Peter Bogdanovich was hired to direct for Roger Corman. Starring Boris Karloff in his final role, this story of a sniper slowly losing his mind definitely has its fans (I have yet to see it), even if it was vastly overshadowed a couple of years later by Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show, followed in quick succession by Paper Moon (review here) and What's Up, Doc?—a trio of back-to-back (to-back) cinematic greatness that's rarely been rivaled. [Update: Targets has since expired.]

As always, more new streaming titles can be found behind the tab at the top of the page.


8 Million Ways to Die (1986) - Returned
All About Eve (1950)
Another Day in Paradise (1998) - Returnedreview
Apocalypse Now (1979) - Returnedreview
Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) - Returnedreview
Bad Lieutenant (1992)
Bandits (2001)
Black Sunday (1977)
Cry-Baby (1990)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Food, Inc. (2008)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Hammett (1982) - Returned
Hard Eight (1996)
Internal Affairs (1990)
One from the Heart (1982) - Returnedreview
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Targets (1968)
Tetro (2009) - Returnedreview
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

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