End of September Netflix Binge

At the end of every month Netflix loses a small number of titles from their streaming library. It is always annoying, but for the most part it is manageable - you just have to set some time aside, knock 'em out, and then that's that.

But then sometimes Netflix loses a lot of titles. Like this month they are dropping almost thirty movies out of my 200 movie queue - that's a full 10% of my to-watch list. And for a true obsessive like me that's maddening, because I feel like I have to watch every one of them while I still can, but that's impossible because there just isn't enough time in the day.

It doesn't matter what the movies are. They might be movies I've already seen and kind of meant to rewatch, they might be movies that I know are gonna suck but am curious about anyway, they might be random things I apparently added to my queue at some point in the past for reasons I no longer remember - suddenly I'm obsessed with seeing all of them. So obsessed, in fact, that I hunker down and try to cram as many of them in my eyeholes as quickly as I can, friends, family and sunlight be damned. And then when it's all said and done I still feel like I've missed out, because I only got through a handful of them.

This last weekend I was in full on watch-it-while-you-can-mode. I sorted my soon-to-expire titles by length, and then I watched the shortest ones first, because that was the best way to maximize my time. (Sorry, Leo, but I can't justify rewatching Wolf of Wall Street once when I could be watching the Blair Witch Project twice in that same amount of time.) 

It went fine at first, and then it went less fine, and then by the end I was a stressed out bleary eyed mess. Worst of all: at a certain point all of the movies had started to blend together so I wasn't even sure if I was going to be able to write about any of them.

Oh, sure, some of it is still clear in my mind. I know that the Escape Artist is about a young boy who tries to use magic tricks to avenge his father's death, and I know that the Angriest Man in Brooklyn stars Robin Williams as a man who suddenly discovers that he has 90 minutes left to live. Also, I know that The Angry Red Planet is a staggeringly unscientific sci-fi B-movie from the 50s, and that Fido is a horror comedy about a young boy who befriends a zombie. Oh, and I remember thinking that Tapeheads, an 80's comedy that is trying to spoof the early days of MTV, had aged rather badly. But everything past that is... a little muddled, because I wasn't taking notes while I was watching and now everything has merged together into a fuzzy ball of plot holes, vaguely familiar character actors and lingering life regrets.

So I am in no position to review these movies individually. But... I can review them as an aggregate. So that's what I'm going to do. Without further ado, please let me present to you my review of Fido: The Angriest Escape Artist Head, which is the Voltron-ized version of the five movies I watched this weekend.

F:TAEAH begins with Henry Altman (played by Robin Williams) in a hurry to get across town to his doctor's appointment, but traffic is terrible and all of the other drivers are rude assholes. Then when he finally does get to the hospital he has to wait for hours in the waiting room, which makes his bad mood even worse. So when the doctor - a middle aged woman named Iris whom everyone calls "Irish" - tells him that he has a fatal brain aneurysm he totally flips out. Altman wants to know how long he has left to live. Irish tells him that she can't give him an exact time, but he won't accept that; he keeps demanding to be given a number. Irish sees a cooking magazine out of the corner of her eye and then spits out "90 minutes!" - because that's how long it takes to make a specific chicken dish.

As soon as Altman storms out of the examining room Irish breaks down and sobs. She knows that she should have kept her cool with her vulnerable patient,  but she's really been struggling lately, and he kept demanding an answer, and she just had to tell him something... She's been trying really hard to put on a brave face, but her impending trip to Mars is weighing heavily on her mind. She's the only woman on an all male crew - is it going to get weird out there in space? (Spoiler alert: yes, because all of her fellow astronauts are horny assholes that are completely unfamiliar with the concept of "workplace sexual harassment.")

Meanwhile in another part of the city all of the bad guys are having a meeting. You've got a corrupt local politician, a sexually deviant national politician, a smarmy military man who made a big name for himself in the Zombie Wars, a giant bat-faced spider, and an anthropomorphized aneurysm. (Also Ted Nugent makes a brief and largely unnecessary cameo appearance.) The meeting isn't going well because they don't have much in common - the politicians just want to line their own pockets, while the bat-spider wants to kill because it is hungry, and the aneurysm wants to kill just because it can. However, they can all agree to get behind the military man's "zombies are not to be trusted" platform, because the enemy of my enemy is still undead.

Cut to: Henry deciding that his first order of business should be to reconcile with his estranged son. The elder Altman tries to call him on the phone but his butthurt child refuses to pick up. We then switch to the son's perspective, and we see that the son is a precocious young magician who is hoping to use his magic skills to avenge his father's deat--

Wait, that doesn't sound right.

Oh, yeah, the son is a young Timmy Robinson, and he's plagued by bullies at school. (And honestly, the bullies aren't completely wrong - he is kind of a weirdo and totally a wiener.) Anyway, Helen Robinson brings home a trained zombie to help her with the housework and the emotionally needy Timmy immediately starts using it as a surrogate father figure. He tries to get the zombie to play catch with him but that goes badly because "Fido" is a lumbering oaf with terrible reflexes. Timmy also tries to convince the Fido that it shouldn't kill the old lady down the street and that, too, goes badly. Then Timmy tries to get his replacement dad  to help him fend off the bullies and that goes like gangbusters, because his reanimated pal eats them alive without breaking a sweat.

Just when you think it couldn't get any more exciting we get into this whole thing about a wallet that's full of illicit mob-money that went missing and which everyone wants to get back. Oh, and there's also a briefcase full of bribe money, and a second briefcase that's full of... donuts? Suddenly everything is getting convoluted and I realize that my attention span is weakening; I'm having trouble keeping all the different plot points clear in my mind. 

But then out of nowhere there's a scene where Louis C.K. is banging Mila Kunis from behind in some sort of boiler room and it is such an unexpected and inexplicable visual that I snap back to attention. (This sounds like something I'm making up but it really did happen, I swear.)

Anyway, back on Mars the astronauts are doing a real bad job of being scientists. For example, one of them sticks his globed hand in a pond, splashes it around for a second, and then declares that it feels "heavier" than Earth water. And then he just walks away, having apparently settled the matter. (I should point out in his defense that his sciencing time is a bit limited because he keeps having to fight off the bat-faced spider thing using his cold-ray gun. Although why a cold-ray could defeat a Martian spider (which theoretically evolved to survive in a subzero climate) escapes me.)

So now things are coming to a head. (They have to come to a head quickly because all of these movies are super short.) The Escape Artist has been locked in prison and he has exactly one hour to escape. The music video guys make a terrible grave-digger themed music video for a band of jerks, but then the a band dies onstage in a freak space-rubble accident (<--- I am not making that up either) and then their fortuitously timed video wins a big award and turns them into stars. Also, Fido has been captured by the Man and sent to work in a factory, which is very upsetting for Timmy and so-so for Fido. Also, Henry Altman has just found out that his wife is banging his neighbor, who is a confused looking senior citizen. (Way to trade up, lady.)  Finally, one of the male astronauts finally breaks down and admits that all of the Martian monster attacks are pretty dang terrifying, which comforts Irish, because she thought that only women were capable of being afraid.

And wouldn't you know it everything wraps up cleanly:- the Escape Artist successfully breaks into the local politician's safe, steals his black book of bribes and turns it over to the FBI; the music video guys land a big gig directing a Menudo concert; Fido moves back home and officially becomes part of the Robinson family; Henry Altman finally calms down and reconnects with his family; and the bug-eyed monster that runs Mars warns the astronauts that he's been watching us humans, he doesn't trust us or like us, and if we ever come back to his planet he is going to explode us. The end.

Well, that was a bit of a mess.

The best case scenario here was never very good, because while all of these movies had their good points they are all fundamentally flawed. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is charming but all over the place tonally, since it wants to be sentimental, sarcastic and silly all at the same time; the Angry Red Planet has some cool old school style monsters, but it is slowly paced, incredibly sexist and full of flat characters; the Escape Artist's plot is unnecessarily convoluted, since the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks that keep doubling back on themselves; Fido is funny enough on the surface, but I could never quite pin down the political point its satire on Norman Rockwell style Americana was trying to make; and Tapeheads - well, that was just dumb.

But while I probably could have enjoyed these movies on their own - even the ones that were schizophrenic, or badly paced, or conceptually half baked - there was no way I was ever going to enjoy them once they were stacked on top of each other. I was treating these movies like homework, and homework is never fun - not even when it involves bat-faced monsters and Mila Kunis sex scenes. Sooner or later I'm just going to have to accept that any entertainment you watch out of a sense of obligation isn't going to be entertaining, and I'm just going to have to admit that its okay to lose 30 movies out of my queue because I'll still have 170 other movies I could watch.

That said: we both know that I'm going to be doing this again in October, right?

Winner: The Angriest Man in Brooklyn: Me

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn on IMDB

Winner: The Angry Red Planet: Draw

The Angry Red Planet on IMDB

Winner: The Escape Artist: Draw

The Escape Artist on IMDB

Winner: Fido: Draw

Fido on IMDB

Winner: Tapeheads: The Cat

Tapeheads on IMDB