This week on On-Demand

I still have on-demand cable that I never use, and I figured I’d try to figure out what movies are free from week-to-week.  Plus, it gives me a chance to say a little about a whole bunch of movies, instead of a crapload of stuff about just one.  Is On-Demand old-fashioned?  Maybe I should do the same thing for Netflix.  Oh well.

demand21.  No Country for Old Men (2007) – I didn’t see this movie when it first came out, but it is a pretty good nonetheless, even on repeat viewings.  I don’t care for Javier Bardem, but it has plenty of other actors who hold their own and give good performances, like Tommy Lee Jones.  It is based on a novel and the screenplay was written by the Coen Brothers, the same guys who wrote Fargo and The Big Labowski.  I’m not sure if this is the best free choice this week, but it’s close, as this movie offers good drama, if you can get past the violence.  I’ve seen worse, frankly.

demand12.  Poseidon Adventure (1972) – This is another movie I’ve seen already, and it’s not very good.  Like No Country for Old Men, it too is based on a novel, and is crammed full of celebrities.  Jamming all kinds of celebrities into one movie was a trend back in the day, and they did it a lot on mysteries and action movies like this one.  Probably because of the star power, this was a huge money-maker when it first came out, but it has since disappeared almost completely.  Roger Ebert called it formulaic and I agree.  There’s not one real thrill, but it’s fun to watch Gene Hackman try to keep a whole boat-full of jerks in line.

3.  The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – This French movie from 1964 was re-released in a remastered state to more critical acclaim in 2004, which is probably why it is still remembered today.  Roger Ebert likes his French movies, so he gave it three-and-a-half stars at the time.  It stars Chatherine Deneuve in what could only be described a struggle, as the father of her impending newborn goes to war without marrying her.  The drama is okay, but it’s also a musical.  A French musical, so it’s sorta irritating in my opinion.  Deneuve certainly can sing though.

4.  The Visitor (1979) – There are hundreds of movies with a name as generic as this one, and the generic name doesn’t hide the awful production.  There’s been many movies called “The Visitor”, but this one is from 1979, and it’s a horror movie about a girl with telepathic powers.  It’s pretty much a rip-off of The Omen, but the evil telepathic girl has even stupider parents than Damien in The Omen.  Somehow, this movie stars Glenn Ford and John Huston, who must have needed quick cash. At best, it is a cult classic–but it’s still an absurd retread of material done much, much better.

demand65.  Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) – This is another second-rate movie.  It stars Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh, and they couldn’t be more dull and serious throughout the whole thing.  Probably the most famous (infamous?) version of Cleopatra is the Elizabeth Taylor version in 1963, which has one-hundred times more pomp and flavor than this version.  Still, it is entertaining if you’re a fan of Claude Rains, because he does what he does what he does best: be overbearing and domineering.

6.  Fiddler on the Roof (1971) – This is probably the most successful musical ever made, maybe next to The Sound of Music, and the movie has good production value.  It is a bit overblown, in that it revels in itself, with the songs and acting as charmingly sappy as possible.

7.  Grand Exit (1935) – This movie is the polar opposite of Fiddler on the Roof.  It’s a black-and-white small-scale B-movie made by Columbia, and stars nobody I recognize.  It is about an arson investigator, so there is some mystery to it, but it is nothing special.  It is only famous because of the production, and the fires caught on camera, which Columbia used as stock footage in other movies for many years.

demand48.  Grey Gardens (1976) – This movie was recently restored and re-released by a small studio.  It was entered into the Library of Congress as culturally significant in 2010.  It is a somewhat bleak movie, as a mother and daughter try to hold on to their dilapidated house, which is infested with fleas at one point.  It’s a drama documentary of sorts and has American themes of making it and dreams of something more.

demand59.  A Matter of Life and Death (1947) – This is a David Niven special.  It also stars Kim Hunter, of Planet of the Apes (1968) fame.  It is set during World War II and is a romantic drama of sorts.   Probably the best scene is toward the beginning, when David Niven thinks he’s dead after bailing out of his plane without a parachute.  He wakes up on the beach thinking he’s in the afterlife, but quickly realizes he’s still alive after a plane buzzes him overhead.  Snapping back to reality, he tries to get back to his unit.  Pretty good pace and drama, but the dialogue is long and overwritten.