Netflix

12 September 2003

Update (04 May 04): Here’s a summary table of the value we’re getting for our money.

Month DVDs Mins. $/DVD $/hr Best Worst
Sep 03 11 1622 1.81 .74 Six Feet Under (S1, D1) Talk to Her
Oct 03 12 1739 1.73 .71 A Few Good Men A Fistful of Dollars
Nov 03 10 1340+ 2.00 .89 Unforgiven Rebecca bonus disc
Dec 03 12 1654 1.77 .75 Whale Rider Ladyhawke
Jan 04 14 1578 1.43 .76 Breaking the Waves Altered States
Feb 04 13 1489 1.53 .80 Rabbit-Proof Fence Europa, Europa
Mar 04 13 1437 1.53 .83 Welcome to the Dollhouse Songcatcher
Apr 04 13 2064 1.53 .58 Capturing the Friedmans Bottle Rocket
May 04 9 1133 2.22 1.06 The Fog of War Ripley’s Game
Jun 04 13 1437 2.00 .84 City of God Alias (S2, D3)
Jul 04 8 1055 2.75 1.25 Alias (S2, D4) Six Feet Under (S2, D1)
Aug 04 10 1391 2.20 .95 13 Going on 30 Helena: First Pilgrim
TOTAL 136 18078+ 1.81 .81 The Fog of War Altered States

I’ll udpate this table every month.


After two years of hedging, Kris and I finally broke down and joined Netflix. I was convinced that it was Not For Us. The service costs $20/month (to keep three DVDs at a time); we never rent movies, so how could we possibly make this pay?

Well.

After having only been signed up for four days, the utility of Netflix is quite clear. There are three reasons that we never rent movies:

  1. We’re lazy.
  2. We don’t want to support viral corporations like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.
  3. The video stores never seem to have the movies we want to rent. (“Akira Kurosawa? Who’s he?”)

Netflix offers a pleasing solution to all three of these problems.

Here’s another thing: I’ve been toying with the idea of subscribing to HBO so that I could catch all the shows that Mart has raved about: Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, The Wire, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under. An HBO subscription would cost another $11/month, though, and I’ve been unable to justify that expense. Netflix offers a solution in this instance, too. Many of the HBO series are being released on DVD, thus we can stick them in our Netflix queue and watch them at our leisure. Cool, huh?

Still—there’s a danger that this could end up a money pit. We have some friends (conspicuously nameless) who joined Netflix and thought it was a great deal. Until they had kids. Then the same three movies sat on top of their entertainment center for months. How much did they end up paying to watch those three movies? I shudder to think. It makes me want to take a case of wine over to their house this very moment as a sign of consolation. (At the very least, we’ll invite them over to watch some of the films we’ve rented from Netflix.)

If we actually use the service, Netflix will be a great deal.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, here’s how Netflix works. A member pays a flat monthly fee ($20, in our case) in order to have a certain number of DVDs (three, in our case) mailed to his home. The member is free to keep these DVDs as long as he wants. When he’s finished with one, he mails it back to Netlfix in the supplied postage-paid envelope. Netflix then mails out the next film waiting in the member’s queue (pre-selected list of movies). There are several plans available, but locating anything other than the standard plan is non-obvious.

To our Netflix queue, I’ve already added plenty of stuff to make Kris wince: Clint Eastwood westerns, vintage Dr. Who episodes, and a documentary on Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki voyage.

For my own edification, this page is going to serve as an on-going record of our Netflix habits. This will allow me to be certain that we’re getting our money’s worth. (It’s also going to be a subtly revealing insight into our tastes in video.)

Here’s what we’ve rented (descriptions are from the Netflix DVD envelopes):

Marty (1955) — Marty has a problem. Middle-aged and trapped by a smothering mother, his future looks bleak. But when this butcher from the Bronx meets a lonely schoolteacher, suddenly everything is possible. Marty swept the Academy Awards in 1955, winning a Best Actor Oscar for Ernest Borgnine and a Best Screenplay award for Paddy Chayefsky (Network), as well as Best Picture and Best Director Awards. 90 minutes. [received: 09 Sep 03, watched: 10 Sep 03, returned: 11 Sep 03] B-, dated

Six Feet Under (Season One, Disc One) (2001) — This darkly comical HBO television series, about the members of a dynamic but dysfunctional Los Angeles-based family that operates a funeral home, has an ironically grim but intriguing premise: Each episode is based on the death and extenuating circumstances of the family’s current client. The series was created by Alan Ball, who wrote the screenplay for American Beauty. 168 minutes. [received: 09 Sep 03, watched: 10-11 Sep 03, returned: 13 Sep 03] B, with A+ moments — great music

Il Postino (1994) — The lyrical tale of a postman (Massimo Troisi) who delivers mail to and becomes friends with exiled poet Pablo Neruda (Pilippe Noiret). When the postman Mario falls in love with Beatrice (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), he consults Neruda for his best romantic and poetic advice. Il Postino was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Adapted), and won the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score in 1996. 108 min. [received: 09 Sep 03, watched: 12 Sep 03, returned: 13 Sep 03] B+, very nice film about poetry

Six Feet Under (Season One, Disc Two) (2001) — This darkly comical HBO television series, about the members of a dynamic but dysfunctional Los Angeles-based family that operates a funeral home, has an ironically grim but intriguing premise: Each episode is based on the death and extenuating circumstances of the family’s current client. The series was created by Alan Ball, who wrote the screenplay for American Beauty. 224 min. [received: 13 Sep 03, watched: 14 Sep 03, returned: 15 Sep 03] A+, more great stuff

Additional rentals will be listed in the comments below.

Care to recommend other stuff we should rent?

Comments

On 12 September 2003 (12:07 PM),
mac said:

Is this month’s book the apples book or the bone book? I think I’m reading the wrong book!

On 12 September 2003 (02:27 PM),
Jeff said:

Yes, Netflix is wonderful. Though, since I got TiVo a few months ago, I’ve been largely neglecting my Netflix selections. So much to watch, so little time. Ah, well. But yes, Six Feet Under is fantastic. I love it.

On 12 September 2003 (03:33 PM),
Eryk said:

I had a rather bad experience with Netflix a few months ago. Literally half my disks were being lost on shipping to me and my shipping back to them. A disk arrived cracked once and I decided I had had enough. Apparently they are better now with more shipping centers but I haven’t given them another shot yet.

I was a Six Feet Under addict. Well, I still am. I rented the first season and downloaded the other two. Such a good show. I can’t wait for season four. The same with Sex and the City. I have seen every episode. I’m pathetic! I just recently got introduced to the Soprano’s and have been watching them on my HBO On Demand. Three very great shows at m fingertips whenever I want to watch them. Entertainment overload.

After a month or two with Netflix be sure to post a followup. I’d love to hear if they have cleaned up their act.

On 12 September 2003 (10:05 PM),
dowingba said:

Off topic: Sheesh, JD, you can add another link to your “elsewhere” column but you still procrastinate on the updating of my link. (Shakes head and rolls eyes.)

On 13 September 2003 (12:36 AM),
mart said:

make sure you add takeshi kitano’s “scene at the sea” to your queue. we rented it from netflix. and maybe his “kikujiro” too.

On 18 September 2003 (07:59 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

More Netflix films we’ve seen:

Six Feet Under (Season One, Disc Three) (2001) — This darkly comical HBO television series, about the members of a dynamic but dysfunctional Los Angeles-based family that operates a funeral home, has an ironically grim but intriguing premise: Each episode is based on the death and extenuating circumstances of the family’s current client. The series was created by Alan Ball, who wrote the screenplay for American Beauty. 168 min. [received: 15 Sep 03, watched: 16 Sep 03, returned: 18 Sep 03] A+, continued excellence

Six Feet Under (Season One, Disc Four) (2001) — This darkly comical HBO television series, about the members of a dynamic but dysfunctional Los Angeles-based family that operates a funeral home, has an ironically grim but intriguing premise: Each episode is based on the death and extenuating circumstances of the family’s current client. The series was created by Alan Ball, who wrote the screenplay for American Beauty. 168 min. [received: 15 Sep 03, watched: 17 Sep 03, returned: 19 Sep 03] A-, still good, but the “Billy” subplot grows tedious

Kon-Tiki (1950) — This is the Academy-Award winning film of an astonishing adventure, a journey spanning 4300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. On 28 April 1947, Norwegian biologist Thor Heyerdahl and his five crew members embarked from Peru on a daring voyage to prove Heyerdahl’s theory that the South Sea Islands were settled by South Americans aboard balsa wood rafts. The expedition attracted worldwide interest, with Heyerdahl’s book “Kon-Tiki” selling over 20 million copies is 67 languages and this Oscar-winning documentary. 58 min. [received: 18 Sep 03, watched: 18 Sep 03, returned: 19 Sep 03] A, fascinating documentary

On 21 September 2003 (08:09 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Talk to Her (2002) — Renowned writer-director Pedro Almodovar weighs in with a compelling story (as usual) abut two men who become frineds based on a shared love of women who are in comas—although their individual circumstances are completely different. The film (which won the best screenplay Oscar in 2003) is bookended by dance performances, with characters from the movie watching in the audience, and also features a movie-within-the-movie. 105 min. [received: 19 Sep 03, watched: 20 Sep 03, returned: 21 Sep 03] C, best screenplay?!??!!? some (mildly) interesting moments, but overall quite dull

On 22 September 2003 (04:21 PM),
Denise said:

“Talk to her” typos:

abut two men
become frineds

Thank goodness I’m not the only one!

On 29 September 2003 (10:12 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

The Insider (1999) — Although shamefully ignored at the box office, The Insider garnered seven well-deserved Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Russell Crowe). This fact-based film chronicles “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman’s attempt to blow the whistle on the tobacco industry, with Jeffrey Wigand’s help. Highlighted by spectacular cinematography and bravura performances from Crowe, Al Pacino, and Christopher Plummer, this controversial film will have you looking at “60 Minutes” and the big tobacco companies in a different light. 157 min. [received: 20 Sep 03, watched: 25 Sep 03, returned: 29 Sep 03] B+, a good film (though dull in spots) with great cinematography

Lagaan (2001) — A remarkable story about the triumph of the ordinary, set in 1890s India. The ruling British have imposed a harsh tax (lagaan) on the farmers, prompting the villagers of Champaner to plead for a waiver. So, an arrogant and capricious British commander, Capt. Russell, challenges the villagers to a cricket match: If the villagers win, they’ll avoid taxation for 3 years; if they lose, they’ll pay the tax thrice over. 225 min. [received: 23 Sep 03, watched: 26 Sep 03, returned: 29 Sep 03] B+, very fun film, though sometimes trite, including some gorgeous musical numbers

Sophie’s Choice (1982) — Aspiring author Stingo (Peter MacNicol) shares a Brooklyn boarding house with winsome Polish émigré Sophie (Meryl Streep) and her mercurial lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline)—a union unsettled by Nathan’s violent behavior and Sophie’s disturbing recollections of her wartime experience. Stingo discovers that Sophie is a fraud, though, when her accounts of her stint at a Nazi concentration camp unravel, laying bare the real source of her torment. 151 min. [received: 24 Sep 03, watched: 27 Sep 03, returned: 29 Sep 03] C, well-made perhaps, but dull and pointless, with a climax (revealing Sophies “choice”) that fails completely

Here are the final numbers for September 2003: We rented eleven DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.81/DVD), and watched a total of 1622 minutes (for an average of 74 cents per hour).

On 06 October 2003 (06:13 AM),
J.D. said:

Sports Night (Season One, Disc One) (1998) — Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed sitcom ran on ABC for three years, offering a witty behind-the-scenes look at the production of a TV show. Starring Peter Krause and John Charles as the show’s anchors, “Sports Night” is not at all about sports, but about the show’s frantic, often quirky characters and the tough moral and ethical questions they face. This disc includes Season One, episodes 1-8. 192 min. [received: 02 Oct 03, watched: 04-05 Oct 03, returned: 06 Oct 03] B, good but not great, sometimes heavy-handed, not able to find its balance, but worth watching

On 11 October 2003 (11:28 AM),
J.D. said:

Sports Night (Season One, Disc Two) (1998) — Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed sitcom ran on ABC for three years, offering a witty behind-the-scenes look at the production of a TV show. Starring Peter Krause and John Charles as the show’s anchors, “Sports Night” is not at all about sports, but about the show’s frantic, often quirky characters and the tough moral and ethical questions they face. This disc includes Season One, episodes 9-16. 192 min. [received: 01 Oct 03, watched: 06-09 Oct 03, returned: 10 Oct 03] B, the series finds its footing

Sports Night (Season One, Disc Three) (1998) — Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed sitcom ran on ABC for three years, offering a witty behind-the-scenes look at the production of a TV show. Starring Peter Krause and John Charles as the show’s anchors, “Sports Night” is not at all about sports, but about the show’s frantic, often quirky characters and the tough moral and ethical questions they face. This disc includes Season One, episodes 17-23. 168 min. [received: 09 Oct 03, watched: 09-10 Oct 03, returned: 11 Oct 03] A-, very good episodes as the season’s subplots come to a head

On 14 October 2003 (02:36 PM),
J.D. said:

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) — Clint Eastwood’s legendary “Man With No Name” makes his powerful debut in this thrilling, action-packed “new breed of western”. Exploding with blistering shoot-outs, dynamic performances and atmospheric cinematography, it’s an undisputed classic of the genre. 101 min. [received: 01 Oct 03, watched: 12-13 Oct 03, returned: 14 Oct 03] D, whatever — this film is awful

On 16 October 2003 (09:29 AM),
J.D. said:

Sports Night (Season Two, Disc One) (1999) — Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed sitcom ran on ABC for three years, offering a witty behind-the-scenes look at the production of a TV show. Starring Peter Krause and John Charles as the show’s anchors, “Sports Night” is not at all about sports, but about the show’s frantic, often quirky characters and the tough moral and ethical questions they face. This disc includes Season Two, episodes 24-31. 184 min. [received: 15 Oct 03, watched: 15 Oct 03, returned: 16 Oct 03] B-, more polish, loose threads, trademark Sorkin plots, the show seems to lose its sizzle

On 17 October 2003 (07:42 AM),
J.D. said:

Sports Night (Season Two, Disc Two) (1999) — Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed sitcom ran on ABC for three years, offering a witty behind-the-scenes look at the production of a TV show. Starring Peter Krause and John Charles as the show’s anchors, “Sports Night” is not at all about sports, but about the show’s frantic, often quirky characters and the tough moral and ethical questions they face. This disc includes Season Two, episodes 32-38. 161 min. [received: 15 Oct 03, watched: 16 Oct 03, returned: 17 Oct 03] A-, what happened? suddenly the show recovers for its best run of episodes yet, including the truly funny boxing episode

On 25 October 2003 (12:03 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Sports Night (Season Two, Disc Three) (1999) — Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed sitcom ran on ABC for three years, offering a witty behind-the-scenes look at the production of a TV show. Starring Peter Krause and John Charles as the show’s anchors, “Sports Night” is not at all about sports, but about the show’s frantic, often quirky characters and the tough moral and ethical questions they face. This disc includes Season Two, episodes 39-45. 161 min. [received: 16 Oct 03, watched: 18 Oct 03, returned: 20 Oct 03] B, the whow fizzles out…

On 25 October 2003 (12:12 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

A Few Good Men (1992) — Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore star in Rob Reiner’s unanimously acclaimed drama about the dangerous difference between following orders and following one’s conscience. A brash Navy lawyer who’s teamed with a gung-ho litigator in a politically-explosive murder case. [note: that wasn’t even a complete sentence, Netflix — you can do better than that!] Charged with defending two Marines accused of killing a fellow soldier, they are confronted with complex issues of loyalty and honor — including its most sacred code and its most formidable warrior. 138 min. [received: 22 Oct 03, watched: 24 Oct 03, returned: 25 Oct 03] A, Aaron Sorkin at his very best

Far From Heaven (2002) — A Connecticut housewife (Julianne Moore) finds herself dealing with her husband’s (Dennis Quaid) infidelity (she finds him with another man) and the racial tension that epitomized the late 1950s and the advent of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. As a coping mechanism, she develops a friendship with her African-American gardener (Dennis Haysbert), who’s full of sage wisdom. [note: that’s bunk — sage wisdom? give me a break] 108 min. [received: 21 Oct 03, watched: 24 Oct 03, returned: 25 Oct 03] C, a pure and noble failure

On 26 October 2003 (09:05 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

For a Few Dollars More (1965) — Clint Eastwood continues his trademark role as the legendary “Man With No Name” [note: why do they say this? his characters have names, and each is different — these movies aren’t related at all] in this second installment of the famous Sergio Leone trilogy. This is a modern classic, one of the greatest westerns ever made. Eastwood is a keen-eyed, quick-witted bounty hunter on the bloody trail of Indio, the territory’s most treacherous bandit. But his ruthless rival, Colonel MOrtimer (Lee Van Cleef), is determined to bring Indio in first…Dead or Alive! 131 min. [received: 21 Oct 03, watched: 26 Oct 03, returned: 27 Oct 03] C+, better — and parts are great — but still not that good

On 31 October 2003 (06:08 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Blood Simple (1984) — Blood Simple is a bizarre crime story about a seedy Texas bar owner who devises a plot to have his own wife and her lover murdered. What results is a chaotic chain of misunderstandings, lies, and mischief. 96 min. [received: 29 Oct 03, watched: 30 Oct 03, returned: 31 Oct 03] C+, well-crafted, but that doesn’t make a compelling film

Malice (1993) — College Dean Andy Safian (Bill Pullman) and his breathtaking wife, Tracy (Nicole Kidman), live a nice, peaceful life in a small college town. When the rape of a girl on campus brings Andy to the hospital, he runs into an old friend, Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin). Everything in their lives changes when Andy rents a room in their home to Dr. Hill despite Tracy’s objections. Suddenly nothing is as it appears, and no one is exactly who they say they are. 107 min. [received: 28 Oct 03, watched: 30 Oct 03, returned: 31 Oct 03] D, proof that Aaron Sorkin is not infallible — this movie is awful, especially in the beginning: the acting is bad, the direction is bad, the dialogue is bad, and the story is obvious — not good

Here are the final numbers for October 2003: We rented twelve DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.66/DVD), and watched a total of 1739 minutes (for an average of 68 cents per hour). Our cumulative totals through two monhths: We’ve rented 23 DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.73/DVD), and watched a total of 3361 minutes (for an average of 71 cents per hour).

On 05 November 2003 (10:24 AM),
J.D. said:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1967) — The classic action-packed Western about an unholy trio’s lethal pursuit of $200,000 in Confederate money which forms the core of this bullet-ridden tale. Includes 14 minutes of footage never seen before in the United States. 162 min. [received: 28 Oct 03, watched: 03 Nov 03, returned: 04 Nov 03] B+, much better than its predecessors, very good in spots, beautiful cinematography

On 05 November 2003 (11:12 AM),
Lynn said:

I’m not a fan of Eastwood’s westerns – not my genre – but I did see parts of his appearance recently on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with James Lipton. He said he had complete freedome in regards to his character in this trilogy. He said the director didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Italian so he brought his own wardrobe and decided on that raspy voice. Also, he said he bought the cigars in a store in Beverly Hills – they were very long and skinny so he cut them in thirds. Just thought it was funny.

On 05 November 2003 (04:03 PM),
Denise said:

I love Clint Eastwood – but I think that is because growing up, my Dad would watch any Clint Eastwood movie that was on tv – especially the spaghetti westerns.

I think Clint Eastwood is the John Wayne of our generation…and when he dies, he will be extremely missed at least by one fan!

On 06 November 2003 (09:30 PM),
J.D. said:

Network (1976) — Even more compelling today than when it was first released, Network is a wickedly funny, dead-on indictment of the television news media, frighteningly ahead of its time. Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall star in this searing portrait of television exploitation. When longtime news anchor Howard Beale is fired, he suffers a violent on-air breakdown. But when his sagging ratings are boosted by his angry rantings, he’s subsequently rehired and reinvented as the ‘mad prophet of the airwaves’. 121 min. [received: 06 Nov 03, watched: 06 Nov 03, returned: 07 Nov 03] A? F? C+?, intelligent writing and, at the core, a brilliant film, but it’s laden with some dead weight — I’d love to see a modern remake

On 07 November 2003 (05:30 PM),
J.D. said:

Miller’s Crossing (1990) — Gabriel Byrne stars as Tom Reagan in Joel and Ethan Coen’s take on the 30s gangster film. Adviser to a Prohibition-era crime boss (Albert Finney), Tom gets caught in the lteral and figurative crossfire when his loyalties are divided between warring mobs. Mix in an affair with the boss’s dame (Marcia Gay Harden), several double-crosses and backstabs and the Coens’ typical blackly funny dialogue, and you’ve got a bang-up (literally) movie. 115 min. [received: 056 Nov 03, watched: 07 Nov 03, returned: 08 Nov 03] B, Roger Ebert’s review is spot-on: elements of this film are good, but it seems fake, is missing some essential spark

On 24 November 2003 (10:10 PM),
J.D. said:

Daniel Deronda (2002) — Based on George Eliot’s novel about a love triangle gone awry, Daniel Deronda originally aired on television as part of the award-winning Masterpiece Theatre series. The illegitimate son of a wealthy British aristocrat, Daniel harbors a secretive past and a ready supply of cash. When he meets Gwendolyn, a beautiful woman in desperate need of money, things get complicated, as he’s already involved in a passionate relationship with a Jewish singer. 210 min. [received: 12 Nov 03, watched: 14 Nov 03, returned: 24 Nov 03] B-, from the same team as the marvelous Pride and Prejudice, this miniseries is not as good

Rebecca (1940) — Here’s a recipe for happiness: Marry a mysterious widower (Laurence Olivier), then move into his mansion and take orders from his servants! That’s the situation the hapless — and nameless — second Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine) faces in Alfred Hitchcock’s eerie adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Gothic classic. This was the only Hitchcock film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. 130 min. [received: 14 Nov 03, watched: 15 Nov 03, returned: 16 Nov 03] A-, a classic film worth viewing

Rebecca, the Bonus Disc (1940) — The bonus disc for the film Rebecca, containing interviews and documentaries and supplementary material. N/A min. [received: 14 Nov 03, watched: 15 Nov 03, returned: 16 Nov 03] C, big promises unfulfilled

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Three, Disc One (1994) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes a trio of related episodes, all tied together by a pair of white gloves: “Nearer My God to Thee”, “Fits Like a Glove”, and “Extreme Unction”. 145 min. [received: 18 Nov 03, watched: 24 Nov 03, returned: 25 Nov 03] B-, a trilogy of episodes that try too hard but never pay off

On 26 November 2003 (11:34 AM),
J.D. said:

Unforgiven (1992) — Long-retired gunslinger William Munny (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly takes one last job — and even more reluctantly accepts a boastful youth (Jaimz Woolvett) as a partner. Together, they discover how easily complicated truths are distorted into simplistic myths about the Old West. Gene Hackman (who won an Oscar) and Richard Harris stand out as old foes who have an unhappy reunion. Other Oscars include Best Picture and Director (Eastwood). 127 min. [received: 18 Nov 03, watched: 25 Nov 03, returned: unknown — I’m watching it again and then loaning it to Tony] A+, outstanding film in every respect, especially the writing (from the writer of Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, Hero, and Twelve Monkeys!!!) — here’s Ebert’s review &mdash it’s on his list of great movies

On 27 November 2003 (12:06 PM),
J.D. said:

Chinatown (1974) — Private eye J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) uncoveres intricate dirty dealings in the Los Angeles waterworks and gets his nose slashed for his grief. Suspicious, porcelain-skinned famme fatale Faye Dunaway (who harbors a nasty family secret) finances Gittes’ snooping. Director Roman Polanski reimagines 1930s Los Angeles in this brilliant detective thriller. And Robert Towne’s onion-like script reveals itself one complex layer at a time. 130 min. [received: 26 Nov 03, watched: 26 Nov 03, returned: 28 Nov 03] B+, a fine film but not as good as I had remembered — great script, though

On 30 November 2003 (06:11 PM),
J.D. said:

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Three, Disc Two (1994) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “Crosetti”, “The Last of the Watermen”, and “A Model Citizen”, and “Happy to Be Here”. 200 min. [received: 18 Nov 03, watched: 24 Nov 03, returned: 25 Nov 03] B, good quality television perhaps, but not as good as I’d like

Here are the final numbers for November 2003: We rented ten DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $2.00/DVD), and watched a total of 1340+ minutes (for an average of 89 cents per hour). Our cumulative totals through two monhths: We’ve rented 33 DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.81/DVD), and watched a total of 4701+ minutes (for an average of 76 cents per hour).

On 07 December 2003 (09:24 PM),
J.D. said:

Ladyhawke (1985) — Ladyhawke is the enchanted story of a porcelain-skinned beauty, a stalwart black-shroud knight…and The Mouse. During the night, Rutger Hauer becomes a wolf and during the day Michelle Pfeiffer assumes the form of a hawk. Also with Matthew Broderick. 121 min. [received: 02 Dec 03, watched: 02 Dec 2003, returned: 05 Dec 03] C, fairly dull though the core idea is clever

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Three, Disc Three (1994) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “All Through the House”, “Nothing Personal”, and “Every Mother’s Son”. 145 min. [received: 05 Dec 03, watched: 07 Dec 03, returned: 08 Dec 03] C and A, the first two episodes are dull but “Every Mother’s Son” is quite good

On 11 December 2003 (08:29 AM),
J.D. said:

The French Connection (1971) — Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman), a foul-mouthed, violent narcotics detective, pursues a suave French drug dealer (Fernando Rey) through New York City with Captain Ahab-like zeal. Director William Friedkin took the provocative stance that both the narcs and the smugglers use similar thuggish ends to get what they need. This thrilling Best Picture Oscar winner (based on a true story) is famous for its riveting car-vs.-elevated-train chase. 104 min. [received: 06 Dec 03, watched: 09-10 Dec 2003, returned: 11 Dec 03] B-, I love the gritty sets but the early-70s ultra-realism doesn’t appeal to my modern sensibilities

On 21 December 2003 (01:25 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Family Guy Season One, Disc One (1999) — Fans of this Fox TV show, which premiered in 1999 (and was canceled after three seasons, much to the chagrin of diehard followers), will rejoice at this collection of the series’ episodes. Each one is riddled with pop-culture referencs made by Peter, Stewie, and the rest of the gang that have made the show a cult hit. This disc contains all seven episodes from the first season. 158 min. [received: 09 Dec 03, watched: 09 Dec 2003, returned: 10 Dec 03] A-, damn funny stuff though a bit repetitive

Family Guy Season Two, Disc One (1999) — Fans of this Fox TV show, which premiered in 1999 (and was canceled after three seasons, much to the chagrin of diehard followers), will rejoice at this collection of the series’ episodes. Each one is riddled with pop-culture referencs made by Peter, Stewie, and the rest of the gang that have made the show a cult hit. This disc contains the first seven episodes from the second season. 158 min. [received: 10 Dec 03, watched: 10 Dec 2003, returned: 11 Dec 03] B, this would have been funny in weekly doses, but it gets old when watched all at once

On 21 December 2003 (01:33 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Three, Disc Four (1994) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “Cradle to Grave”, “Partners”, and “The City That Bleeds”, and “Dead End”. 200 min. [received: 18 Dec 03, watched: 19 Dec 03, returned: 22 Dec 03] B, “Cradle to Grave” is awful, “The City that Bleeds” is prett good

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Three, Disc Five (1994) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “End Game”, “Law and Disorder”, and “The Old and the Dead”. 143 min. [received: 18 Dec 03, watched: 19 Dec 03, returned: 22 Dec 03] B, this is a show that could be good but that lacks some essential element

On 21 December 2003 (03:12 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Whale Rider (2003) — Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. A Maori tribe must contend with the distinctly non-traditional concept of having a female leader when young Pai’s (Keisha Castle-Hughes) twin brother — the intended heir to the throne — dies during childbirth. Now, she must struggle to prove herself. Stars Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis and Grant Roa. Written and directed by Niki Caro 101 min. [received: 20 Dec 03, watched: 21 Dec 03, returned: 22 Dec 03] A, a wonderful film that starts slowly but gathers strength in the telling, but why on earth is this PG-13? There’s no reason that it should not be rated G — Keisha Castle-Hughes is gorgeous and a revelation as an actress — read Roger Ebert’s glowing review

On 25 December 2003 (10:23 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Three, Disc Six (1994) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “In Search of Crimes Past”, “Colors”, and “The Gas Man”, and “Dead End”. 200 min. [received: 24 Dec 03, watched: 24 Dec 03, returned: 26 Dec 03] A, a great disc featuring high-quality episodes

On 28 December 2003 (11:09 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

The Office Series One (2001) — The workplace depicted in this six-part BBC series is as dysfunctional as it gets. David Brent (Ricky Gervais), office manager of nondescript Wernham-Hogg in Slough, is at once zany, clueless, and mortifying. David likes to drink, divulge deeply personal information at odd moments, read his poetry, and make a fool of himself in front of his team, which is made up of Gareth the sycophant, Tim the sensitive guy, flirtatious Donna, and many others. (Note: that description, from Netflix, sucks — it’s inaccurate in many respects.) 177 min. [received: 24 Dec 03, watched: 26-27 Dec 03, returned: 29 Dec 03] B+, very dry, very funny, though sometimes the humor either doesn’t work or gets repetitive

The Office Bonus Disc (2001) — Much like the series itself, there’s nothing run-of-the-mill about The Office Bonus Disc. Among other goodies, it features “How I Made the Office”, an entertaining look at the show’s genesis by creator Ricky Gervais (who stars as David Brent); a short film on which the BBC series was based; bloopers that make already funny bits even more so; and the piece de resistance — Peter Purves’s training video, as seen in the fourth episode. 47 min. [received: 24 Dec 03, watched: 27 Dec 03, returned: 29 Dec 03] A-, funny, but short, and from the description of the disc, we must have missed some hidden content

On 31 December 2003 (08:48 AM),
J.D. said:

Finding Nemo (2003) — Pixar, the studio that brought you Monsters, Inc., A Bug’s Life, and the Toy Story movies, heads Down Under for an amazing animated underwater adventure. Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeners lend their voices to the characters of Marlin and Dory, two fish searching high and low for Marlin’s missing son, Nemo. Along the way they meet surprisingly friendly sharks, a flick of beady-eyed seagulls, and some seriously laid-back sea turtles. Surf’s up, dude! 100 min. [received: 30 Dec 03, watched: 30 Dec 03, returned: 31 Dec 03] B, okay — and with some funny bits — but overrated (Kris and I don’t understand why people love Pixar movies so much; if they were animated in a traditional manner, they’d be considered run-of-the mill); as with most Pixar movies, this one is far too loud (lots of screaming and banging — ugh)

Here are the final numbers for December 2003: We rented twelve DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.66/DVD), and watched a total of 1654 minutes (for an average of 72 cents per hour). Our cumulative totals through four monhths: We’ve rented 45 DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.77/DVD), and watched a total of 6355+ minutes (for an average of 75 cents per hour).

On 04 January 2004 (10:20 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) — Mailroom clerk Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) is a rube, a schmo, a grade-A ding dong, just what Hudsucker Industries wants in a president! With him at the top, the stock will hit bottom, and the fat cats can take over. But Norville has his own spiffy plan. And if a snoopy reporter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) doesn’t put the kibosh on the Hudsucker flimflam and finagling big cheese Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) doesn’t squash him, Norville’s idea will put a smile on the hips of all America. From the ever uneven Joel and Ethan Coen. 111 min. [received: 03 Jan 04, watched: 04 Jan 04, returned: 05 Jan 04] B-, stylish, Leigh is great, but this film lacks some essential spark; it falls flat

Hero (1992) — Geena Davis is ace reporter Gale Gayley, who literally falls into the story of a lifetime when she’s a passenger that crashes into a Chicago bridge. In the smoke and darkness, she’s saved by a rude foul-mouthed hero (Dustin Hoffman) who promptly disappears into the night, leaving only his shoe behind. When Gale’s TV station offers a million dollars to the mystery hero, a gentle Vietnam vet (Andy Garcia) appears to claim the prize. 118 min. [received: 02 Jan 04, watched: 04 Jan 04, returned: 05 Jan 04] C-, basically an average film with more bad moments than good (though there is a little good in it) — too much is ludicrously improbable

On 04 January 2004 (10:23 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

HA! I said the same thing about Hudsucker Proxy that I said about Miller’s Crossing: “lacks some essential spark”. And it’s true, too. The Coen brothers seem to sometimes get too wrapped up in being stylish at the expense of storytelling. I don’t deny that their style is attractive, but give me a Fargo or a Big Lebowski or a even a Blood Simple over a Hudsucker Proxy or a Miller’s Crossing or — worst of all — a Raising Arizona.

On 08 January 2004 (09:56 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) — A group of real estate salesmen (Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin) in Chicago vie for the best leads at a small firm selling property in resort areas such as Florida and Arizona. When a hotshot executive (Alec Baldwin) from the head office arrives and proposes a vicious sales contest (the winner gets a Cadillac, the loser gets fired), competition gets stiff, and the veteran salesmen suddenly find their jobs in jeapordy. 100 min. [received: 02 Jan 04, watched: 06 Jan 04, returned: 07 Jan 04] D, as in dull — what the hell? yes, this film captures some of what it’s like to be in sales, but mostly it’s a flurry of foul language and dialogue that goes nowhere

Glory (1989) — An epic tale of triumph and tragedy. Based on the letters of Col. Robert G. Shaw, Glory tells the tale of a Union Army regiment composed entirely of black volunteers. Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Andre Braugher stand out as soliders with a personal stake in the fight against slavery. Matthew Broderick shines as Shaw, who commanded the regiment at great personal risk. 118 min. [received: 08 Jan 04, watched: 08 Jan 04, returned: 09 Jan 04] B+, not a great film by any means, but affecting, especially in its latter half

On 09 January 2004 (09:28 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Big Night (1996) — Despite having a talented chef and outstanding cuisine, an Italian restaurant run by two brothers (Stanley Tucci, who also wrote and directed, and Tony Shalhoub) teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. It’s then they learn a huge star will visit their bistro for a multicourse meal. With everything to lose, the brothers pull out all the stops hoping the big night will save their trattoria. 109 min. [received: 07 Jan 04, watched: 09 Jan 04, returned: 10 Jan 04] A-, a wonderful film that falters just a little in its final act

On 13 January 2004 (11:46 AM),
J.D. said:

My Dinner With Andre (1981) — From Louis Malle, the Academy Award nominated director of Au Revoir Les Enfants, comes this highly acclaimed film. This whimsical comedy [ed: WTF? whimsical comedy?] was written by and stars Wallace Shawn [ed: Mr. “Inconceivable” of Princess Bride fame] and Andre Gregory. Two old friends meet in a chic New York restaurant where Andre recounts his mystical adventures of the past few years. The focus then turns to the relationship between the two men, their innermost feelings and loves, and their different ideas concerning the purpose of life. When the check eventually comes, one of them will have been profoundly changed. 110 min. [received: 12 Jan 04, watched: 12 Jan 04, returned: 13 Jan 04] n/a, how does one grade this film? It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s not everyone, to be sure, but for those who are patient, it’s challenging and stimulating, like reading a good book.

On 13 January 2004 (12:21 PM),
mart said:

how do you grade it? you give it an a+. and while yr at it, you upgrade glengarry glen ross to at least a and possibly a+ status! tsk-tsk. for shame…

On 19 January 2004 (10:04 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Ever After (1998) — A classic fairy tale is given new life in this enchanting story about a young 16th-century woman as independent and wise as she is beautiful and kind. Against all odds, she defies her scheming stepmother and makes her dreams come true. 121 min. [received: 14 Jan 04, watched: 16 Jan 04, returned: 17 Jan 04] B, feminist Cinderella story isn’t really as dumb as it sounds — a good movie for a Friday night at home

The Incredible Adventures of Wallace and Gromit (2001) — Animator Nick Park’s most beloved creations come to life in this DVD, which includes all three of the pair’s adventures: “A Close Shave,” “A Grand Day Out” and “The Wrong Trousers.” In each, the unflappable, cheese-worshipping Wallace and his loyal dog, Gromit, foil the plans of dastardly penguins, conniving robotic sheep dogs and others who threaten to destroy the equilibrium of their happy, predictable lives. 85 min. [received: 15 Jan 04, watched: 17 Jan 04, returned: 20 Jan 04] B, yes, bits are clever, and “The Wrong Trousers” is good, but mostly it doesn’t float my boat, especially “A Close Shave”

Breaking the Waves (1996) — The revolutionary Dogma 95 school of filmmaking washed up on American shores with this intense, European drama. Director Lars von Trier shot in available light, using handheld cameras and no musical score. The result is a nakedly emotional film. Emily Watson plays a na�ve Scotswoman who�s convinced God will heal her paralyzed husband if she has sex with other men. 159 min. [received: 16 Jan 04, watched: 19 Jan 04, returned: 20 Jan 04] A, beautifully filmed but painful to watch Scottish tragedy at its finest — Watson is superb among a strong cast

On 28 January 2004 (10:25 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Citizen Ruth (1996) — In this satirical look at the abortion issue, Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), an unfit mother of four, discovers while in jail that she’s pregnant again. The judge charges her with endangering the fetus, but tells her in confidence that he’ll reduce the charges if she has an abortion. When word of this gets out, Ruth gets caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers who want to use Ruth to get their messages across. 102 min. [received: 22 Jan 04, watched: 22 Jan 04, returned: 23 Jan 04] C+, good way to celebrate Roe v. Wade day, but not a great film (J.D. liked the bits he say, though — very funny)

Hilary and Jackie (1998) — Emily Watson stars in this true story about Jacqueline du Pr�, a famed cellist whose glamorous but turbulent life contrasts with the quiet existence of her sister, Hilary (Rachel Griffiths). The close but complicated relationship between the sisters strains to the breaking point as a result of infidelity, jealousy and, finally, illness. Based on Hilary’s controversial memoir, A Genius in the Family. 121 min. [received: 21 Jan 04, watched: 23 Jan 04, returned: 24 Jan 04] B, Kris has no comment (J.D. didn’t watch it)

Life as a House (2001) — Faced with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, George (Kevin Kline) decides to construct a beautiful new house on his land overlooking the Pacific ocean, while at the same time trying to connect with his estranged son (Hayden Christensen). Kristin Scott Thomas and Mary Steenburgen co-star in a dramedy that speaks eloquent volumes about the fragility — and resilience — of the human condition. 125 min. [received: 24 Jan 04, watched: 26 Jan 04, returned: 29 Jan 04] B, filled with cliché, but somehow affecting nonetheless

The Endurance (2000) — In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set sail on the Expedition with 27 men aboard, aiming to cross Antarctica. But when the vessel became stranded in frigid, deep waters, the crew began a battle of the human spirit, testing the limits of endurance as they strove to overcome the debilitating setback. Miraculously, they succeeded, even capturing the experience in pictures and on film. The Endurance celebrates the survivors of this wayward adventure. 97 min. [received: 28 Jan 04, watched: 28 Jan 04, returned: 29 Jan 04] B+, slow and plodding in spots, but mostly a beautifully filmed tale of survival

Altered States (1980) — Manic psychologist William Hurt�s experiments combine sensory deprivation and mind-bending drugs to unlock the inner self. His handiwork shuttles him back and forth on the human evolutionary spectrum — from human to ape-man. Hurt and colleague Blair Brown regurgitate Paddy Chayefsky’s script at hyperspeed (director Ken Russell hated the dialogue but was contractually bound not to change it). 102 min. [received: 28 Jan 04, watched: 28 Jan 04, returned: 29 Jan 04] F, good grief is this film terrible — the screenplay is almost completely inaccessible — so awful we could not finish it

Here are the final numbers for January 2004: We rented fourteen DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.43/DVD), and watched a total of 1578 minutes (for an average of 76 cents per hour).

Our cumulative totals through five monhths: We’ve rented 59 DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.69/DVD), and watched a total of 7933+ minutes (for an average of 76 cents per hour).

On 08 February 2004 (01:33 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Seabisbuit (2003) — During the Depression, a former bicycle repairman, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), owned a small, knobbly-kneed horse called Seabiscuit. Howard teamed up with half-blind ex-prize-fighter Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), who became the horse’s jockey, and former “mustang breaker” Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), who became the horse’s trainer. People around the country became fascinated with the story of Seabiscuit, who won Horse of the Year honors in 1938. 141 min. [received: 02 Feb 04, watched: 05 Feb 04, returned: 06 Feb 04] B, better than expected, but not great

The Virgin Suicides (1999) — Responding to the lax moral milieu of the mid-1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon (James Woods and Kathleen Turner, respectively) keep their five alluring, adolescent daughters on a short leash. When the youngest, 13-year-old Cecelia (Hannah Hall), unaccountably commits hara-kiri and wayward elder sister Lux (Kirsten Dunst) violates curfew, Mom puts all the girls under virtual house arrest. But her overreaction has unintended — and dire — consequences. 97 min. [received: 02 Feb 04, watched: 06 Feb 04, returned: 07 Feb 04] B-, definitely filled with great potential — and I loved the first hour — but ultimately the story doesn’t deliver

Bowling for Columbine (2002) — Famed documentarian and left-wing political humorist Michael Moore tackles the issue of America’s unique obsession with firearms. Taking off from the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999, Moore visits a Michigan bank that gives new customers a free gun, marshals statistics for gun deaths in the U.S. and interviews subjects as diverse as National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston and shock rocker Marilyn Manson. 120 min. [received: 02 Feb 04, watched: 07 Feb 04, returned: 09 Feb 04] A-, the first hour is awesome, though the second hour lags in spots — I love that Moore doesn’t find any answers

On 17 February 2004 (07:26 AM),
J.D. said:

Gormenghast, Disc One (2000) — Based on the series of novels by Mervyn Peake, this fantasy-filled mystery features the glorious castle of Gormenghast, home to the ancient family of Groan and where, through 77 generations, the Groans have been in power. But the dynasty is now threatened by Steerpike (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), an intelligent, crafty, evil kitchen-boy who is intent on doing things his way, with only the young, timid Earl of Groan to stop him. 174 min. [received: 10 Feb 04, watched: 13 Feb 04, returned: 14 Feb 04] B-, didn’t live up to my expectations, though each epsiode was better than the one before

Gormenghast, Disc Two (2000) — Based on the series of novels by Mervyn Peake, this fantasy-filled mystery features the glorious castle of Gormenghast, home to the ancient family of Groan and where, through 77 generations, the Groans have been in power. But the dynasty is now threatened by Steerpike (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), an intelligent, crafty, evil kitchen-boy who is intent on doing things his way, with only the young, timid Earl of Groan to stop him. 58 min. [received: 11 Feb 04, watched: 13 Feb 04, returned: 14 Feb 04] B+, more fun than the first three episodes, perhaps because I hadn’t read this part of the story

Gosford Park (2001) — Robert Altman’s fun take on classic 1920s English whodunits makes for a jolly good show. This top-notch celebrity clue game features such stars as Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith and Jeremy Northam, all of whom meet at a verdant country estate for a weekend of fun and games that ends in murder. Think Agatha Christie meets P.G. Wodehouse. 137 min. [received: 11 Feb 04, watched: 12-15 Feb 04, returned: 17 Feb 04] A-, a fun, very good film with great acting — a little top-heavy at times

On 25 February 2004 (06:11 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Muriel’s Wedding (1994) — Trapped in the jerkwater town of Porpoise Spit, Australia, chubby misfit Muriel (Toni Collette) finds comfort in listening to ABBA ditties and in her fairy-tale visions of marriage. The opportunity to fulfill her fantasy ultimately comes along in the form of a South African Olympic swimmer (Daniel Lapaine) looking for Aussie citizenship, and Muriel eagerly ties the knot. At long last, her storybook dreams have come true � or have they? 106 min. [received: 17 Feb 04, watched: 19 Feb 04, returned: 21 Feb 04] C+, not a great film, but fun to watch — plus lots of ABBA!

Circle of Friends (1995) — Based on the popular novel by Maeve Binchy, Circle of Friends follows three girlhood friends — modest Benny (Minnie Driver, in a breakthrough performance), loyal Eve (Geraldine O’Rawe) and socially and sexually precocious Nan (Saffron Burrows) — as they experience first love, first kisses and first betrayals. Chris O’Donnell co-stars as Jack, the object of Benny’s shy affection. 103 min. [received: 17 Feb 04, watched: 19 Feb 04, returned: 21 Feb 04] C, pretty mundane, even though I was pre-disposed to like it (I’m a Minnie Driver fan)

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season One, Vol. One (2000) — Seinfeld co-creator Larry David stars in this off-kilter, oft-improvised comedy series featuring David as a writer with $400 million in the bank who is married to the woman of his dreams, but still finds a way to allow everyday to life baffle and wreak havoc on him. Shot without scripts, the show follows David around Los Angeles, blending reality and fiction to turn some of life’s most banal moments into absolute comedy. 156 min. [received: 21 Feb 04, watched: 21 Feb 04, returned: 23 Feb 04] B-, much potential, and some funny moments, but too many dead spots

On 25 February 2004 (08:54 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Harold and Maude (1971) — A self-absorbed, death-obsessed teen (Bud Cort) and a geriatric, high-on-life widow (Ruth Gordon) find love in this comical cult favorite. Hassled by his domineering mother (Vivian Pickles) to play the dating game, the morbid Harold would rather attend funerals, which is where he meets the feisty Maude (natch). The seemingly mismatched pair forms a bond that turns into a highly unconventional — but ultimately satisfying — romance. 91 min. [received: 24 Feb 04, watched: 25 Feb 04, returned: 26 Feb 04] B-, I know this is a cult favorite — and it’s not bad — but it’s just not quite my thing

Europa, Europa (1990) — This irony-filled tale is based on the autobiography by Solomon Perel, a Jewish German who changes his name and joins the ranks of Hitler Youth in order to survive the Holocaust after he’s discovered in a Polish orphanage. As he climbs higher in the Nazi ranks, being found out seems nearly inevitable — especially when a gay officer and a severely anti-Semitic girlfriend are too close to discovering some irrefutable, circumcised evidence. 112 min. [received: 24 Feb 04, watched: 25 Feb 04, returned: 26 Feb 04] C-, unique, I’ll grant, but poorly made — perhaps the book is better

On 26 February 2004 (07:58 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) — Director Phillip Noyce delivers a little movie that scores big. Australia’s government-sponsored integration program in the 1930s ripped apart families and broke many hearts. This film follows three girls who are forcibly removed from their families and sucked into the adoption process. With fierce resolve to return home, the girls follow a rabbit-proof fence that extends for 1,500 miles throughout the western continent. 94 min. [received: 25 Feb 04, watched: 26 Feb 04, returned: 27 Feb 04] A+, fantastic film, absolutely brilliant: gorgeous filmmaking, wonderful child actors, archetypal story, perfect for families — highly recommended

On 29 February 2004 (05:26 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Thirteen (2003) — Thirteen-year-old Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is a good girl. She’s smart, gets along with her mother (Holly Hunter) and is never any trouble. But then she befriends Evie (played by Nikki Reed, who co-wrote the movie), a gorgeous and popular classmate who teaches Tracy to let loose and introduces her to the beguiling world of sex, alcohol, drugs and self-mutilation — much to the horror of Tracy’s friends, relatives and, most of all, her mother. 100 min. [received: 28 Feb 04, watched: 29 Feb 04, returned: 01 Mar 04] A, exquisitely painful — this film is like birth control

Here are the final numbers for February 2004: We rented thirteen DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.53/DVD), and watched a total of 1489 minutes (for an average of 80 cents per hour).

Our cumulative totals through six months: We’ve rented 72 DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.66/DVD), and watched a total of 9422+ minutes (for an average of 76 cents per hour).

On 08 March 2004 (07:29 AM),
J.D. said:

Freaky Friday (2003) — Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Tess Coleman, mother of 15-year-old Anna (Lindsay Lohan), in this remake of the 1976 comedy starring Jodie Foster. Mother and daughter bicker over everything — what Anna wears, whom she likes and what she wants to do when she’s older. In turn, Anna detests Tess’s fianc� (Mark Harmon). When a magical fortune cookie switches their personalities, they each get a peek at how the other person feels, thinks and lives. 93 min. [received: 28 Feb 04, watched: 01 Mar 04, returned: 02 Mar 04] B, not a great film, but I’ll grant that it’s fun

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) — The horrors of junior high are vividly recreated in this darkly comic tale of a painfully unhip seventh grade girl whose classmates’ merciless taunting is only compounded by her dreary, middle-child home life. This hilarious, bittersweet black comedy from writer/director Todd Solondz demonstrates that adolescence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 100 min. [received: 02 Mar 04, watched: 02 Mar 04, returned: 03 Mar 04] A, another painful film about adolescence — I knew these kids, I can relate

On 08 March 2004 (07:31 AM),
J.D. said:

American Splendor (2003) — Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) was a working-class stiff, a file clerk who found an outlet for his creativity by chronicling every minutia of his life in Cleveland, Oh., for more than 20 years in a comic-book series called American Splendor. This revealing biopic co-stars Hope Davis and tells Pekar’s story through two-dimensional images, archival footage and more. 98 min. [received: 03 Mar 04, watched: 04 Mar 04, returned: 04 Mar 04] A-, highly entertaining with only a couple of dull spots — some great writing

On 08 March 2004 (07:32 AM),
J.D. said:

Donnie Darko (2001) — Donnie Darko is an edgy, psychological thriller about a suburban teen coming face-to-face with his dark destiny. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a delusional high-school student visited by a demonic rabbit with eerie visions of the past, and deadly predictions for the future. 113 min. [received: 04 Mar 04, watched: 05 Mar 04, returned: 06 Mar 04] A-, I’ll readily admit this film is not for everyone (Kris hated it), but it is for me: I loved it — moody and mysterious and engrossing

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season One, Vol. Two (2000) — Seinfeld co-creator Larry David stars in this off-kilter, oft-improvised comedy series featuring David as a writer with $400 million in the bank who is married to the woman of his dreams, but still finds a way to allow everyday to life baffle and wreak havoc on him. Shot without scripts, the show follows David around Los Angeles, blending reality and fiction to turn some of life’s most banal moments into absolute comedy. 156 min. [received: 05 Mar 04, watched: 06 Mar 04, returned: 08 Mar 04] B+, these episodes are much better than those on the first disc — I was dying with laughter at many points during “AAMCO” and “Beloved Aunt”

On 16 March 2004 (09:04 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Dead Man Walking (1995) — Scheduled to be put to death for brutally slaying two teens, Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) seeks the aid of activist nun Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), a death-penalty opponent. She becomes Matthew’s spiritual adviser and tries to halt the execution, even though Matthew’s professed innocence is dubious. As the execution date draws ever closer, Sister Helen works to save Matthew’s soul by getting him to confess — and to ask divine forgiveness. 122 min. [received: 09 Mar 04, watched: 09 Mar 04, returned: 10 Mar 04] B, summary review

About a Boy (2002) — Will Lightman (Hugh Grant) is a rich, hip, irresponsible Londoner who, in search of available women, invents an imaginary son and starts attending single-parent meetings — confident in both parties’ inability to make a commitment. But when Will meets Marcus, the troubled 12-year-old son of Fiona (Toni Collette), a quirky and unexpected friendship develops as both Will and Marcus help each other grow up. 101 min. [received: 06 Mar 04, watched: 10 Mar 04, returned: 11 Mar 04] B, surprisingly good — it seems I like Nick Hornsby’s stories

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) — It’s Monday morning. Bridget (Ren�e Zellweger) has woken up with a headache, a hangover and her boss. Wickedly clever, this tale of Miss Jones’s yearlong odyssey from Mr. Right-here-right-now (Hugh Grant) to Mr. Right (Colin Firth) delivers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the female mind. Zellweger, Firth and Grant are perfectly cast in this popular adaptation of Helen Fielding’s best-selling novel. 97 min. [received: 12 Mar 04, watched: 13 Mar 04, returned: 15 Mar 04] B, not bad, but not great either — entertaining if a little trite

Signs (2002) — Everything farmer and pastor Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) believed about the world changes when he discovers an intricate pattern of 500-ft. circles carved into his fields. The mysterious markings cause a media frenzy and test Hess’s faith as he journeys to discover their origin. What he finds will forever alter his and his family’s lives. M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) wrote and directed this sci-fi thriller. 106 min. [received: 13 Mar 04, watched: 16 Mar 04, returned: 17 Mar 04] B, M. Night Shyamalan is a clever director, and his writing is strong (often damned funny), but it’s as if some little thing is missing from every script but The Sixth Sense

On 20 March 2004 (10:47 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Songcatcher (2000) — During a visit to her sister in Appalachia, gifted musicologist Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) stumbles upon a musical treasure trove — dozens of Scots-Irish ballads that have been preserved for generations by the local populace and are unknown to the outside world. Intent on collecting the beautiful songs, Dr. Penleric comes to admire the locals, who live a tough, hardscrabble existence without complaint. 109 min. [received: 11 Mar 04, watched: 17 Mar 04, returned: 18 Jan 04] C-, y’know, I was predisposed to like this, but it’s earnest to a fault — nearly collapses under the weight of its Liberal agenda

On 29 March 2004 (10:52 AM),
J.D. said:

Dead Again (1991) — Los Angeles gumshoe Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh) takes the case of a woman (Emma Thompson) beset with amnesia and soon learns that the two are connected (via reincarnation) to a lurid, 40-year-old murder. Branagh is convincing as an American private investigator, and he gets fine support from Thompson (his real-life wife at the time) in this modern noir thriller. 107 min. [received: 18 Mar 04, watched: 26 Mar 04, returned: 27 Mar 04] C, moments are good but the final climax is silly and the acting is, well, strange (and Branagh’s accent is bizarre)

On 29 March 2004 (10:55 AM),
J.D. said:

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) — Widower Tao Chu, Taiwan’s most famous chef, struggles with accepting his three daughters’ newfound appetite for boys, an interest that begins to break the family apart with hilarious and often touching results. 123 min. [received: 20 Mar 04, watched: 27 Mar 04, returned: 29 Mar 04] B+, a very nice film full of typical Ang Lee repressed emotions and subtle performances — I love all the Asian food imagery

On 29 March 2004 (11:03 AM),
J.D. said:

The Sweet Hereafter (1997) — A high-profile lawyer uncovers a tangled web of lies, deceit and forbidden desires as he brings a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a grieving community. 112 min. [received: 20 Mar 04, watched: 28 Mar 04, returned: 29 Mar 04] A-, a sweet and haunting film cut through with pain

Here are the final numbers for March 2004: We rented thirteen DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.53/DVD), and watched a total of 1437 minutes (for an average of 83 cents per hour).

On 09 April 2004 (07:30 AM),
J.D. said:

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Four, Disc One (1995) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “Fire (Part 1)”, “Fire (Part 2)”, “Autofocus”, and “A Doll’s Eyes”. 188 min. [received: 30 Mar 04, watched: 01 Apr 04, returned: 03 Apr 04] A-, good episodes all around — I like the new characters

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Four, Disc Two (1995) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “Heartbeat”, “Hate Crimes”, and “Thrill of the Kill”. 144 min. [received: 31 Mar 04, watched: 02 Apr 04, returned: 03 Apr 04] A-, another set of good episodes

Shine (1996) — A riveting profile of Australian keyboard virtuoso David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) and his ultimate triumph over a domineering, abusive father (Armin Mueller-Stahl); schizophrenia; and an obsession with the all but unplayable Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3. Sir John Gielgud, superb as ever, plays Helfgott’s tutor. Richly deserved Oscars went to Rush (Best Actor) and to Mueller-Stahl for his supporting turn. 105 min. [received: 03 Apr 04, watched: 05 Apr 04, returned: 07 Apr 04] B, though it starts slowly, this film builds to a satisfying crescendo — Rush deserves his Oscar

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Four, Disc Three (1995) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “Sniper (Part 1)”, “Sniper (Part 2)”, “Full Moon”, and “For God and Country”. 188 min. [received: 06 Apr 04, watched: 08 Apr 04, returned: 09 Apr 04] C+, an awful episode (“Sniper (Part 2)”), a boring episode (“Full Moon”), and a run-of-the-mill episode (“For God and Country”) make this a weak disc in the series

On 12 April 2004 (07:52 AM),
J.D. said:

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Four, Disc Four (1995) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “The Hat”, “I’ve Got a Secret”, “Justice (Part 1)”, and “Justice (Part 2)”. 188 min. [received: 06 Apr 04, watched: 09 Apr 04, returned: 10 Apr 04] B, average Homicide, but even average Homicide is pretty good

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Four, Disc Five (1995) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “Stakeout”, “Map of the Heart”, “Requiem for Adena”, and “The Damage Done”. 188 min. [received: 10 Apr 04, watched: 11 Apr 04, returned: 12 Apr 04] B+, though “Map of the Heart” is both bizarre and weak, the other episodes on this disc are good, and one of them — “The Damage Done” — is the best episode since the first season’s “Three Men and Adena” (it’s a truly great piece of television)

On 26 April 2004 (08:31 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Homicide: Life on the Streets Season Four, Disc Six (1995) — Based on a book by David Simon, this intense police drama has a storied pedigree, earning numerous Emmy, Writer’s Guild and George Foster Peabody Awards for its cerebral plotlines, smart dialogue, showcase acting and riveting camerawork. Andre Braugher (as Det. Frank Pembleton), who stayed for all but one season, led a stellar cast that included Richard Belzer, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty and more. This disc includes the following episodes: “The Wedding”, “Scene of the Crime”, and “Work Related”. 144 min. [received: 13 Apr 04, watched: 16 Apr 04, returned: 17 Apr 04] B-, a bizarre set of episodes to wrap up the season

On 26 April 2004 (08:31 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Capturing the Friedmans (2003) — A family in crisis is “captured” through real home video. The Friedmans, an average upper-middle-class Jewish family in Great Neck, NY, found their world turned upside down when the father and son were charged with child molestation in 1987. The media inundated the airwaves with coverage of the alleged crime, but some of the best footage was shot by the family themselves — seen publicly for the first time in this documentary. 107 min. [received: 13 Apr 04, watched: 16 Apr 04, returned: 17 Apr 04] A-, with challenging subject matter, this film presents thought-provoking questions with only a bit of a bias: well-done

Alias Season One, Disc One (2001) — Few TV shows are as mystifying and fascinating as this ABC series starring Jennifer Garner. As Sydney Bristow, a grad student who’s also a double agent for the CIA and one of its adversaries, SD-6, Garner transforms herself — literally and figuratively — from a rookie into a veteran agent as she contorts through every plot twist and outrageous costume thrown her way. Victor Garber and Michael Vartan co-star. This disc includes the following episodes: “Truth Be Told”, “So It Begins…”, “Parity”, “A Broken Heart”. 180 min. [received: 14 Apr 04, watched: 19 Apr 04, returned: 20 Apr 04] A-, surprisingly entertaining — Kris likes the female spy because she kicks ass, I like her because she’s sexy! :)

The Office Series Two (2002) — The workplace depicted in this six-part BBC series is as dysfunctional as it gets. David Brent (Ricky Gervais), office manager of nondescript Wernham-Hogg in Slough, is at once zany, clueless, and mortifying. David likes to drink, divulge deeply personal information at odd moments, read his poetry, and make a fool of himself in front of his team, which is made up of Gareth the sycophant, Tim the sensitive guy, flirtatious Donna, and many others. (Note: that description, from Netflix, sucks — it’s inaccurate in many respects.) 180 min. [received: 20 Apr 04, watched: 21 Apr 04, returned: 24 Apr 04] A-, very, very funny, more consistent than the first series, and the bonus material is great, too

On 26 April 2004 (08:32 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Bottle Rocket (1996) — Three best friends attempt to escape their suburban boredom through a life of crime. But, these bickering, bumbling thieves are no match for the local ‘godfather’ who leads them into the biggest heist of their careers. 92 min. [received: 24 Apr 04, watched: 26 Apr 04, returned: 27 Apr 04] C+, a strange little film, probably unwatchable for most folks, but filled with great writerly touches that endear it to me

On 26 April 2004 (08:32 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Alias Season One, Disc Two (2001) — Few TV shows are as mystifying and fascinating as this ABC series starring Jennifer Garner. As Sydney Bristow, a grad student who’s also a double agent for the CIA and one of its adversaries, SD-6, Garner transforms herself — literally and figuratively — from a rookie into a veteran agent as she contorts through every plot twist and outrageous costume thrown her way. Victor Garber and Michael Vartan co-star. This disc includes the following episodes: “Doppelganger”, “Reckoning”, “Color-Blind”, and “Time Will Tell”. 180 min. [received: 22 Apr 04, watched: 26 Apr 04, returned: 27 Apr 04] B, some subplots start dragging the show down, but I still dig the actual spy missions — give me more of those and less of the X-Filesesque mythology building (I loved X-Files for its stories, but hated the overall storyline)

On 04 May 2004 (09:46 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Alias Season One, Disc Three (2001) — Few TV shows are as mystifying and fascinating as this ABC series starring Jennifer Garner. As Sydney Bristow, a grad student who’s also a double agent for the CIA and one of its adversaries, SD-6, Garner transforms herself — literally and figuratively — from a rookie into a veteran agent as she contorts through every plot twist and outrageous costume thrown her way. Victor Garber and Michael Vartan co-star. This disc includes the following episodes: “Time Will Tell, “Mea Culpa”, “Spirit”, and “The Confession”. 180 min. [received: 22 Apr 04, watched: 30 Apr 04, returned: 30 Apr 04] B, still rather soap opera-esque, but some of the action scenes are great, and I love the spy stories lost in return mail

That’s a lot of DVDs for one month. Two of them — the last Alias disc and Bottle Rocket — never made it back to Netflix for some reason. They were mailed from work, both in the same envelope. It’s been a week, and still Netflix doesn’t have them. They have a system set up whereby they don’t charge members for lost discs so long as it doesn’t become a pattern. I like that.

Here are the final numbers for April 2004: We rented thirteen DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $1.53/DVD), and watched a total of 2064 minutes (for an average of 58 cents per hour).

On 04 May 2004 (09:57 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

Love Actually (2003) — An ensemble comedy that tells 10 separate (but intertwining) London love stories, leading to a big climax on Christmas Eve. One of the threads follows the brand-new, unmarried Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) of the United Kingdom, who, on his first day in 10 Downing Street, falls in love with the girl (Martine McCutcheon) who brings him his tea. Denise Richards, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley and Rowan Atkinson co-star. 135 min. [received: 04 May 04, watched: 04 May 04, returned: 05 May 04] A-, sap, yes, but brilliantly conceived sap featuring complex explorations of love in all its many forms — it’s great to see love explored as more than just a cliché

On 20 May 2004 (08:48 AM),
J.D. said:

Alias Season One, Disc Four (2001) — Few TV shows are as mystifying and fascinating as this ABC series starring Jennifer Garner. As Sydney Bristow, a grad student who’s also a double agent for the CIA and one of its adversaries, SD-6, Garner transforms herself — literally and figuratively — from a rookie into a veteran agent as she contorts through every plot twist and outrageous costume thrown her way. Victor Garber and Michael Vartan co-star. This disc includes the following episodes: “The Coup”, “Page 47”, and “The Prophecy”. 135 min. [received: 05 May 04, watched: 08 May 04, returned: 10 May 04] A-, a nice set of episodes actually

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) — To be young and carefree amid sun-drenched Italy’s blue waters and idyllic landscape in the late 1950s: That’s la dolce vita that Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) craves and Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) leads. 139 min. [received: 05 May 04, watched: 09 May 04, returned: 10 May 04] B, another strange film, wholly unusual in that the protagonist is the bad guy

The Fog of War (2003) — Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara worked for both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, playing a key role in shaping both administrations’ approaches to the Vietnam War. This Oscar-winning documentary directed by Errol Morris traces McNamara’s career from government to the World Bank; but it’s his work during the Vietnam years that’s highlighted in this film, which features extensive archival footage and interviews. 107 min. [received: 14 May 04, watched: 19 May 04, returned: 20 May 04] A+, an outstanding film — should be required viewing for everyone

On 01 June 2004 (10:46 AM),
J.D. said:

Alias Season One, Disc Five (2001) — Few TV shows are as mystifying and fascinating as this ABC series starring Jennifer Garner. As Sydney Bristow, a grad student who’s also a double agent for the CIA and one of its adversaries, SD-6, Garner transforms herself — literally and figuratively — from a rookie into a veteran agent as she contorts through every plot twist and outrageous costume thrown her way. Victor Garber and Michael Vartan co-star. This disc includes the following episodes: “Q&A”, “Masquerade”, and “Snowman”. 135 min. [received: 14 May 04, watched: 25 May 04, returned: 27 May 04] C, dull and soap-opera-esque, the Alias mythology takes front stage here, and it’s not good

Ripley’s Game (2002) — Mr. Ripley’s got game … deadly game! With a mind as sharp as his throwing knives, it’s child’s play for Ripley (John Malkovich) to manipulate an innocent family man into becoming a cold-blooded assassin. But Ripley’s intricately planned game of murder could spin out of control with the arrival of a gang of Russian mobsters intent on extracting their own pound of flesh. Stars Dougray Scott. 110 min. [received: 25 May 04, watched: 26 May 04, returned: 27 May 04] C, standard stuff — there’s the germ of something good here, but the film doesn’t do a good job of carrying on from The Talented Mr. Ripley

Alias Season One, Disc Six (2001) — Few TV shows are as mystifying and fascinating as this ABC series starring Jennifer Garner. As Sydney Bristow, a grad student who’s also a double agent for the CIA and one of its adversaries, SD-6, Garner transforms herself — literally and figuratively — from a rookie into a veteran agent as she contorts through every plot twist and outrageous costume thrown her way. Victor Garber and Michael Vartan co-star. This disc includes the following episodes: “The Solution”, “Rendezvous”, and “Almost Thirty Years”. 135 min. [received: 28 May 04, watched: 28 May 04, returned: 29 May 04] A, I’d been ready to give up on this series after the previous disc, but I was shocked by how good this one was: it tied the mythology (which I normally hate) into compelling spy stories, and managed to join nearly every loose thread — great stuff

On 01 June 2004 (10:55 AM),
J.D. said:

Requiem For a Dream (2000) — No middle ground here; you’ll either love or hate Requiem for a Dream. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans are best friends and amateur drug dealers looking for a big score. Trouble is, they’re their own best customers. As they descend into the nightmarish hell of addiction, Leto’s mother (Oscar-nominee Ellen Burstyn) also finds herself hooked on barbiturates. Not for the squeamish. 102 min. [received: 08 May 04, watched: 28 May 04, returned: 29 May 04] A, strong stuff, exploring addictions of all sorts from a variety of angles; Kris says, “Anyone who thinks drugs should be legalized ought to be forced to watch this film.”

Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series Disc One (2000) — Set in a suburban Detroit high school in the early 1980s, this Emmy-nominated drama focuses on the lives of two groups of teens who don’t live in the fabricated, glossy world that most TV shows depict as “normal.” No, Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) and her brother Sam (John Francis Daly) live in the reality of being less-than-popular that most Americans remember — or try to forget — about their high school years. This disc includes the following episodes: The Pilot, “Beers and Weirs”, and “Tricks and Treats”. 135 min. [received: 29 May 04, watched: 30 May 04, returned: 01 June 04] A, this is fantastic stuff: great acting, great writing, great directing — it does a spot-on job of capturing what it was like to be in high school during the early eighties

All the house-related stuff distracted us from Netflix this month, but still we watched nine discs. Here are the final numbers for May 2004: We rented nine DVDs through Netflix (for an average of $2.22/DVD), and watched a total of 1133 minutes (for an average of $1.06 per hour).

On 30 August 2004 (11:20 AM),
J.D. said:

Because of our move, I stopped keeping Netflix records. Fortunately, Netflix itself keeps records for us. So, here are the DVDs we’ve rented in the past few months. (A few of these, from the middle of August, were rented by Nick, but are included here because they were on our account.)

I’m not providing detailed information or reviews for these. I’ll resume that with our current batch of discs.

June
Monster, Freaks and Geeks (disc two), Alias season two (disc one), American Movie, Alias season two (disc two), Freaks and Geeks (disc three), City of God, Curb Your Enthusiasm season two (disc one), Curb Your Enthusiasm season two (disc two), Interview with the Vampire, Alias season two (disc three)
Best: City of God, Worst: Alias season two (disc three), Discs Watched: 11, Minutes Watched: 1576, $/Disc: $2.00, $/hour: $0.84

July
Alias season two (disc four), Run Lola Run, Freaks and Geeks (disc four), Six Feet Under season two (disc one), Freaks and Geeks (disc five), Alias season two (disc five), Alias season two (disc six), Freaks and Geeks (disc six)
Best: Alias season two (disc four), Worst: Six Feet Under season two (disc one), Discs Watched: 8, Minutes Watched: 1055, $/Disc: $2.75, $/hour: $1.25

August
Six Feet Under season two (disc two), Best of Travels in Europe with Rick Steves: Italy, My Voyage to Italy (disc one), My Voyage to Italy (disc two), Discovering Italy, The Italians, Ancient Civilizations: Rome and Pompeii, Helena: First Pilgrim to the Holy Land, Rome: Power and Glory (disc one), 13 Going on 30
Best: 13 Going on 30, Worst: Helena: First Pilgrim to the Holy Land, Discs Watched: 10, Minutes Watched: 1391, $/Disc: $2.20, $/hour: $0.95

And that brings us to the end of our first year of Netflix. In this first year, we watched 136 DVDs totaling 18,078 minutes (or 301 hours, or 12-1/2 days). Our average cost was $1.81/disc (or $0.81/hour).

Coming soon: superhero movies, Japanese films, some classics, and Alias season three!

On 02 September 2004 (10:41 AM),
J.D. said:

Horatio Hornblower (Disc One: The Duel) (1998) — The epic saga of legendary seafaring hero Horatio Hornblower (powerfully portrayed by Ioan Gruffud) comes to swashbuckling life in these epic films based on C.S. Forester’s classic novels. As the Napoleonic wars rage, Hornblower suvives battle after battle, evades capture, and works his way up the ranks in the king’s royal navy. With danger at every turn and unending adventures, Hornblower must use every ounce of his wit and courage to prevail. 93 min. [received: 25 Aug 04, watched: 01 Sep 04, returned: 02 Sep 04] B+, not bad, not bad; Kris says Hornblower is “so much better than Captain Jack Aubrey”

On 03 September 2004 (07:49 AM),
J.D. said:

The Station Agent (2003) — When his only friend dies, a young dwarf named Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) relocates to an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, intent on living the life of a hermit. But his solitude is soon interrupted by his colorful neighbors, which include a struggling artist (Patricia Clarkson) coping with the recent death of her young son, and a talkative Cuban hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale). 89 min. [received: 28 Aug 04, watched: 02 Sep 04, returned: 03 Sep 04] A-, moody and unexplainable, but good, though lacking some essential spark

On 07 September 2004 (07:54 AM),
J.D. said:

Good Bye Lenin! (2003) — In East Germany in 1989, Alex Kerner’s (Daniel Bruhl) mother Christiane (Katrin Sass) falls into a coma just as the Berlin Wall is about to come down. Eight months later, she wakes up, but her heart is too weak to withstand any great shock. So Alex goes to great (and often hysterical) lengths to keep the truth about her country’s reform a secret. This widely praised, Golden Globe-nominated comedy played in festivals around the world. 121 min. [received: 24 Aug 04, watched: 03 Sep 04, returned: 07 Sep 04] C-, WTF? This film fails to elevate its absurd premise; it’s almost painful to watch. And it’s dull!

On 07 September 2004 (07:58 AM),
J.D. said:

Frida (2002) — Julie Taymor directs this Oscar-winning biopic of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek), focusing on her often rocky relationship with husband Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). Also known for her controversial political and sexual reputation (she was a communist and a bisexual), Frida struggled with a life of wracking pain following an accident, the amputation of a leg, and finally, drug and alcohol abuse that killed her at age 47. 123 min. [received: 04 Sep 04, watched: 05 Sep 04, returned: 07 Sep 04] B+, perhaps overlong in spots, and sometimes without direction, this film is nevertheless worthwhile: simply gorgeous costumes and sets — a visual feast

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