Monday, February 1, 2021

Netflix new release roundup for January ‘21

...and that was just January.

What a month, huh? Our long national nightmare is finally over, though the mess DT left behind will take years, if not decades, to clean up, and a whole lot of people out there will try to impede the process... but now that adults are in charge of America again, we stand a good chance at making some progress. To ease us back to movie-related discussion, if you haven’t seen this video from Arnold Schwarzenegger—the former California governor, remember?—take a look at it.

The Midnight Sky. George Clooney and a little kid are stuck on an Arctic base but they’ve gotta send a message to a spaceship returning from a scouting trip to another planet, telling them not to come home because the earth is effed up. This was done well and all, but man, I’m tired of all these depressing space exploration movies: Interstellar, Gravity, First Man, Ad Astra. I realize SF can’t all be action-adventure shoot-em-ups, but space travel used to represent hope. What happened? Clooney also directs and produces; as an actor, he’s in full-on Grizzly Adams mode, and everyone’s grim and silent and sad. Just the kinda thing we all need right now, isn’t it?

Pretend It’s a City. Vija told me about this one (she read about it; she didn’t see it): a documentary mini-series, in half-hour installments, on writer Fran Leibowitz, her love-hate relationship with New York, and thoughts on life in general, directed by Martin Scorsese. This is actually their second collaboration; the first movie he made about her was in 2010. I had no prior experience with her; never read her work, never seen her speak, barely even knew who she was, but I can see why Marty put her on film. One part Woody Allen, one part Dorothy Parker, her observations on New York life are quite funny and very often on the nose, to those of us who have lived here long enough. This is someone I could easily see chatting with on a subway car, complaining over a variety of things that are wrong about the city, but mostly I’d be listening. I think there’s a lot to appreciate about this even if you’re not a New Yorker.

Outside the Wire. US-military-made cyborg teams up with disgraced drone pilot to hunt down European terrorist looking to acquire nukes—but said cyborg has agenda of his own. Anthony Mackie gets to channel his inner Van Damme in what some critics have called an SF Training Day. It was okay, but not emotionally involving. Doesn’t have the heart of Terminator 2 or the brain of Ex Machina. It’s basically an excuse for Mackie to kick ass—which, granted, he does really well! Newcomer Damson Idris is appealing as the human reluctantly paired with this cyborg, but otherwise, well, I probably would’ve passed on this if it were a theatrical release.

More on the other side.

We said goodbye to two fine character actresses last month.

First: did you ever see Cloris Leachman in her youth? She was a stunning beauty. You wouldn’t know it from her movies, though; she tended to play very unglamorous roles, but damn, was she good in them, whether drama, like her Oscar-winning role in The Last Picture Show, or comedy, like Young Frankenstein or History of the World Part I. On TV, of course, she was one of the breakout stars of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (a wee bit before my time). Fabulous actress in everything she did. Sad to know she’s gone.

Second: I’m glad I reviewed The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman last year so I could see Cicely Tyson at her best. She lasted a very long time in Hollywood, working well into her nineties and receiving numerous accolades late in her career—not just “lifetime achievement” type awards, but awards and nominations for current work! That’s remarkable, but I think Jane might’ve been her most notable. Classy lady, and a pioneer to boot


My film club has examined the strange and wonderful delights of pre-code cinema lately. In December we watched Of Human Bondage with Bette Davis, and last month Vija picked out two more: Millie with Helen Twelvetrees and The Kennel Murder Case with William Powell.

I found the former mostly shallow and empty-headed, at least until the murder plot twist, but at least it had Joan Blondell playing a girl in what sure looked like a lesbian relationship. The latter had Powell in a Nick Charles-like role before he actually became Nick Charles, only without Myrna Loy and much of the accompanying wit and chemistry. I wasn’t blown away with either one.

We mostly talked about what constituted “pre-code” content in both movies. They seemed pretty interested in them—I linked to Danny’s website, of course, and that helped. I think we may watch some more in the future. 


Good news: Crystal from Good Old Days has woken from her coma after two months and six days, according to her brother Jarrahn on Facebook. Apparently the first thing she heard was an Olivia de Havilland movie. As of January 28, Crystal remained in critical care but will get transferred to intensive care soon.


I will definitely have a post for you on the 26th, though I don’t know if there’ll be anything else before then. Check my Twitter page at @ratzo318 for announcements.



  1. I hadn't seen the good news about Crystal. Thanks.

    Garry has been watching the Fran Lebowitz episodes - twice. Once when I am at dialysis and again when I get home. We crack up as much as Scorsese does.

    Pre-code is like noir in that they didn't know they were making pre-code until the code became entrenched in production. There are a lot of interesting and fine titles to explore.

  2. Marty was in stitches over Fran Leibowitz, wasn’t he? I can’t recall the last time I saw him so easily amused.

    My friends seemed genuinely interested in pre-code cinema, though who knows if it’ll lead to becoming lifelong fans. It probably wouldn’t have started, though, were it not for the theaters closing.


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