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Stream This: Disaster on the Coastliner (1979)

The 1979 TV movie Disaster on the Coastlineravailable for streaming on Netflix Instant — came out at a time when the disaster genre was completely played out. Hey, that’s just how TV worked back then. But shocker, this thing is actually pretty damn good.

A disgruntled railroad employee sabotages two trains and threatens to crash them into each other, killing hundreds. One of the passengers is the wife of the Vice President of the United States, and so naturally there’s extra attention in the newly computerized control center. Al Mitchell (Lloyd Bridges) shows up to ensure safe travel for the First Vice Lady (Second Lady?) and also the commoners, I guess. He’s a no-nonsense guy and can’t tolerate computers though, because they foul things up. After being assured that that will never happen, that’s exactly what happens.

It’s a pre-Airplane II: The Sequel reunion with Bridges, William Shatner and Raymond Burr (as the head of the railroad company) on board, along with E.G. Marshall, Pat Hingle, Ivan Drago’s trainer from Rocky IV and countless other familiar faces. Also in the cast is Yvette Mimieux (The Black Hole), who at one point I believe is wearing nothing but a washclosh as Shatner gets her liquored up in the club car.

Can you spot the Shatner in this scene?

The first couple of acts are goofy 70s fun mixed with hamfisted melodrama that only now serves to make us laugh. Shatner seems to be having a blast as a con man on the run from the law, but it’s Bridges who steals the first half of the film. Basically playing the exact same character he’ll play in Airplane! the following year, every bit of news distresses him and every person he comes in contact with pisses him off royally. At one point he goes ballistic and decides he’s just going to blast the railroad’s giant computer with his handgun.

The second half gets a bit more dramatic and actiony (naturally) as the events depicted on the cover art for the film are actually taking place. There’s some incredible stunt work in the finale, including several scenes where Shatner is probably engaged in the most dangerous work of his career. It’s impressive to watch, even more so keeping in mind that it’s a TV movie.

Both cheesy as hell and pretty damn good, Disaster on the Coastliner is something to behold. Just resist the urge to try and do word problems involving trains throughout the film. One train leaves San Francisco at 9am going…


Stream This: Vigilante Force (1976)

In 1976’s Vigilante Forcenow available on Netflix Instant — a small California town is being overrun by whorin’, gamblin’, murderous oil workers, and so local tractor repairman Ben Arnold (Jan-Michael Vincent) is persuaded to track down his “war hero” brother Aaron (Kris Kristofferson) to come help out. Aaron recruits a group of mercenaries of sorts and they’re all deputized. But Aaron and his men have other, more sinister plans for the town, and soon it’s brother vs. brother.

Produced by Gene Corman (Attack of the Giant Leeches) and written and directed by George Armitage (Miami Blues), Vigilante Force is dated but also pretty damn awesome. The relationships in the film are severely underdeveloped, but the story is interesting enough to help overlook that. Plus, the third act delivers on the orgy of violence promised early on in the film when Aaron steals a cache of military-grade weaponry.

Despite my hatred for remakes, you could definitely redo this one today and make it a big hit. Just punch up the character interactions a little more to where the audience’s desire for vengeance in the finale is at a boiling point. Overall it’s a fun 70s flick with some amazing stunt work, goofy dialogue and a supporting cast that includes Bernadette Peters, Victoria Principal (either ridiculously overacting or seemingly posing for a magazine cover in damn near every scene she’s in), Dick Miller, Andrew Stevens, and Loni Anderson (as Peaches!). While there are some slow sequences, you shouldn’t be bored during this one overall.


Don’t Stream This: Visiting Hours (1982)

Visiting Hours is a Canadian piece of junk from the 1980s that’s now available on Netflix Instant. I’d never heard of it until I watched Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, which prompted me to seek out some of the gorefests mentioned that had escaped my radar.

The film should have been showcased as part of the “fall” section in that documentary.

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Don’t Stream This: Spice World (1998)

As you might have guessed, Spice World is just one long promotional film for the British girl band The Spice Girls, and it’s now available for streaming on Netflix Instant. Sure there’s a hint of humor in there every once in a while. Actually, there’s a couple of pretty good jabs AT The Spice Girls. But overall, who cares? Not me.

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Don’t Stream This: Land of Doom (1986)

At some point you’re going to see one of those two posters and decide it’s time to seek out Land of Doom. Without much effort you’ll discover that the movie is streaming on Netflix, and you’re going to be super stoked about it.

Don’t do it.

First up, the bulk of the content on those posters is a bold-faced lie. In the poster on the left, the only thing that seems to be accurate is the glove, which itself is a mash up of the gloves of two different characters. There is no hot redhead with a laser gun.

In the poster on the right, the babe is closer to who actually appears in the film, but she’s never dressed like that (instead she basically wears heavy combat fatigues the entire film) and again there’s no laser gun. The Ric Flair in a mask looking dude IS accurate, but he will be so much cooler in your head than when you see the film. In your head you’ll be thinking, well, Ric Flair in a mask, and instead what we get is a nervous screamer who acts like he was the director’s son instead of an actual actor.

If you haven’t figured it out, Land of Doom is one of those post-apocalyptic things where everyone wears nothing but leather studded straps because 1) those apparently are the only things to survive the apocalypse and 2) it makes absolutely no sense for safety’s sake to wear them.

Also, much of the action takes place off camera. Fight scenes, motorcycle crashes… often you’ll just hear them while a character reacts to what’s happening instead of actually seeing the event take place.  That’s BAD moviemaking.

And this is a movie without an ending. It seems like it was written with a sequel in mind, but of course one never came. So it’s pointless.

Land of Doom is the kind of movie I would pull clips from for the Worst Movie Scenes series, but that would require sitting through it again. And as bad as some scenes are, the rest of it is way too dull to even attempt. Skip it. Trust me.


Stream This: Texas Rangers (2001)

While the outstanding television mini-series Lonesome Dove – and to a lesser extent, its numerous sequels – was the definitive tale of Texas Rangers, it didn’t tell the story of the Rangers in action. Now, the much delayed, much maligned film Texas Rangers has arrived on Netflix Instant, loosely based on actual events of the reformation of the Rangers after the Civil War.

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Don’t Stream This: The Proposal (2001)

Desperate to find a good Jennifer Esposito movie, I fired up The Proposal which is also now available on Netflix Instant. Unfortunately it’s an absolutely absurd film that has no business existing.

An undercover cop needs a “wife” for one evening to help complete his cover, and so his chief assigns him the records clerk (Esposito). She immediately weasels her way into the thick of the investigation and their arrangement is then forced to continue. I’m assuming this arrangement is what the “proposal” is, even though no one proposes anything at any time during this movie. The two sorta fall in love, which might complicate things. Or it might not.

I will now spoil this entire movie for you, so if you have your heart set on seeing it, skip to the next paragraph where I will return to spoiler-free criticism. Okay, it is first revealed that Esposito’s character is actually working for the bad guy all along, and it’s seemingly all a ruse to weed out the undercover cop. But then it’s revealed that the cop’s commanding officer, the one who assigned her to the case, is also working for the crime lord, which is how a lowly “records clerk” would get assigned to such a dangerous assignment. Well none of this makes a lick of sense because if the police chief guy is in cahoots with the bad guy, couldn’t he just tell the bad guy who the undercover officer is? Why this totally ridiculous trick which only exists to fool the audience? Finally it’s revealed that Esposito is actually a federal agent, but who cares at this point. Nothing made any sense.

Anyway this movie stinks, despite the appearance of the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X Files playing a federal agent, but yet unable to shake his CSM mannerisms and persona. The fact that the movie was penned by Maurice Hurley, a former staff writer on both 24 and Star Trek: The Next Generation saddens me even more.


Don’t Stream This: Backflash (2002)

I enjoy looking at actress Jennifer Esposito. I find her to be quite attractive and a decent enough performer, but her career is sorely lacking in quality titles. A friend of mine best summed up her entire career by saying “When The Master of Disguise is your best movie, that’s not a good thing.”

Some of her films recently became available on Netflix Instant, including the 2002 flick Backflash, which stars Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, Cop Land, The X Files) as a mild-mannered video store owner who gets suckered into a psuedo-heist by Esposito’s character, fresh from a stint in jail.

Essentially any movie screenplay since Clerks that features characters who work in a video store screams “Look at me! I’m a writer and I love movies! All my characters will reference movies because I like movies too!” When Esposito’s criminal character busts out a reference to 1964′s Dead Ringer, it’s almost too much to handle.

Anyway, the movie stinks, despite a bizarre supporting cast that includes Melissa Joan Hart for no real reason whatsoever. Much like life itself. Skip it and just do a Google image search for Esposito instead.


Don’t Stream This: S1m0ne (2002)

Why does Hollywood continue to think that the whole world will be interested in stories about Hollywood, and then portray themselves as babbling jackasses without a lick of sense or morality?

In S1m0neavailable on Netflix Instant — Al Pacino plays a failed director who’s given software to create a perfect CGI actress. The world then goes batshit for her.

Seriously, if a complete newcomer gave a moderately good performance in a really bad art movie, the world would not go insane for her. Would she generate buzz? Sure. But we would not become complete buffoons, drooling over any little piece of info we can learn about the “elusive” new star. You gotta appear in stolen cell phone porn just to come close to that kind of reaction, and even still, we’d all move on to something else a week later.

A great supporting cast (Catherine Keener, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jason Schwartzman, Jay Mohr) is wasted in this. But I really admire Pacino’s performance. This is an awful idea which became a terrible script, yet Pacino is just as sincere as he can be throughout. That’s dedication. And, he’s under control here as well. Pity.


Don’t Stream This: Notting Hill (1999)

Whenever a new romantic comedy or drama is released, there is always one question that has to be asked. I mean sure, you know how the movie is going to end even before you start it, so the question is not “will they or won’t they?”. No, the question is “Will the journey to this film’s obvious conclusion be entertaining?”. In the case of Notting Hillwhich is available on Netflix Instant — the answer is absolutely, 100% definitely not.

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