Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Youtube Free Movies, Part 2

[12/30/14 UPDATE: I wrote a third entry on this topic in December 2013. Go there for updated info.]

I'm back ("& I'm p@#### off") to finish this review of Youtube's free movie selection. I'm doing the balance now because I haven't had much time to write, & had other articles I wanted to release first.

Last time, I ran through 8 of the 14 available movie categories. The Indian category was so small, there was nothing to say. Read that entry for extra info on Youtube's system; the web is too good a reference system for me to type it twice. Unlike then, I've been able to check out Youtube on an IPad 2. It was disappointing - Youtube embeds on this site were fine, but no free film would play...

The Documentaries/Biographies section kicks off with one of the most well-known recent documentaries, Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me. The first line also has the much-loved The Buena Vista Social Club. It's a pretty smart way to begin, right? They have an old classic, Nanook of the North, and new foreign entries, like 2010's Israeli Wake Up Alive.

The other entries tend to have a very wide-ranging appeal: the Sierra Leone pic The Empire in Africa (which I'll soon watch), as well as The Battle of Britain, The Fort Fisher Hermit, and Fuel. Between all of these, you can tell this section appeals to Discovery/Biography/History Channel fans. I'm glad that this is a section that offers enviro-docs, as well as biopics. You'll find RuPaul's (no seriously) The Eyes of Tammy Faye (great title!), and Kristen Scott Thomas in Nowhere Boy, the young John Lennon story.
It's also quite nice to see that the breadth of documentary is represented here: the barrier reef in Beautiful One Day, an overview of SF filmmakers in Fog City Mavericks, Israeli-Palestinian documentaries like The Shape of the Future, or a farm-factory enviro pic like A River of Waste.

Of course, little mistakes are still present. For some reason, one entry shows the plot description for the Peter Weller b-grade scifi adaption of Philip K. Dick's Screamers. The poster looks like it's about Communist propaganda, and boosts music by System of a Down. When you click on it, you get a page saying it "hasn't been made available in your country."

Animation & Cartoons, however doesn't shoot so high. Not only does it have very few movies in it, it barely has anything I have heard of or can recommend. As Youtube has done before, one weak section seems saved by a classic. Here it's Hayao Miyazaki's exceptional The Castle of Cagliostro, a great animated caper about an Italian thief.

And again, I'm not sure whether I'm more excited that they have this treasure, or disappointed that there's little else. At least it makes the section easy to sum up. Most A&C entries appeal to very young kids (e.g., The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer), or to Anime fans (e.g., Macross II:The Movie). At least there's a classic 1954 version of Hansel and Gretel.

And now we're moving on...

Comedy is a dense section that isn't as nice as it should be. It does impress, right up front, with surprising options like the excellent Ghostbusters, The Freshman, Dick, The Daytrippers, and Slacker. Little cult flicks like Earth Girls are Easy and The Doom Generation also help a bit. Yet it sort of spirals out of control after that.

 It holds up well for a bit with The Toy, Crimes of the Heart, Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, as well as a collection of 4 Chaplin shorts, Made For Each Other with Carole Lombard and Jimmy Stewart. They have yet another unknown Angelina Jolie movie, Mojave Moon.

For some reason, only two foreign comedies are available: The Legend of Seven Cutter, a 2006 Korean movie, and the Indian but-UK-based movie, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (I have no idea what that means).

But your hopes drop with all the bad dtv entries, some of which try so hard to appeal to minority crowds - Hittin It, A Miami Tail, and The Spirit of Comedy. No, really, look at those pictures and descriptions. Subtle, right?

What plot description could make this work?
There are a lot of obviously-lousy sex comedies, many of which have posters out of early 90's rap videos. There are far too many of them, and they virtually guaranteed to suck. These tend to look, generally, like cheap knockoffs of the American Pie or National Lampoon movies. Also, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, and Ghostbusters II (shudder). And so we reach the end of comedy...

For Mystery and Suspense, like some other Youtube sections, many of the recent flix look like dtv garbage, then older films make up the bulk of what's left; it's a mixed bag. You have some obvious winners like Charade and The Stranger. And Fritz Lang's M! Sadly, there's nearly no foreign fare; a rare exception, Franka Potente in Anatomy, a film which promises some gore with your suspense.

Lesser-known works like Alexandra's Project and Hitchcock's Blackmail may offer you a bit of fun, but it seems like there should be much more available here. The titles are amusing to read, and you might enjoy looking at all the pre-50's posters.

The Family selection, I hope, isn't something you were looking forward to. In terms of well-known pictures, it only has the Sissy Spacek 1994 film, Trading Mom. Shirley Temple in The Little Princess and the classic 1937 Heidi are the only other movies worth mentioning.

And then we come to the Classics, which is packed to the rafters. Uber-classics abound, like The Third Man, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and The 39 Steps. Each of these are movies that more or less must be seen.

Of course, you'll find westerns, drama (dramae?), foreign films, and comedies here. Many people will want to return to this section to check out less popular work like Buster Keaton's The General, Pygmalion, Cary Grant's sad Penny Serenade, and a 1903 version of The Great Train Robbery.

Keaton, Abbott & Costello,  Gene Autry, John Wayne, Gary Cooper; even if you hadn't heard of the particular film before, these actors are all represented. There are more familiar options, like A Star Is Born, David and Goliath (with Orson Welles?), the 1960 The Little Shop of Horrors with Jack Nicholson, and 3 early Hitchcock pics - Sabotage, Under Capricorn, and Secret Agent.

I guess it should be less surprising that there are several biblical movies around, but the descriptions describe what sounds like a religious psa. Two entries are called "The Life of Jesus Part 1" and "- Part 2?" The movie description also identifies them as 1998 productions.

"- Part 3," which lists the production year as 1971, which looks right but not "classic." These 3 religious entries in particular look like Hercules movies - not especially good ones, but perhaps with a cheesy appeal. And I once again wonder if this stuff should be in the "mystery" section...

Finally, as if to expressly back up my counter-point from a bit ago, you can also catch the sequel to the original Father of the Bride - it's called Father's Little Dividend, with Elizabeth Taylor playing the role of Spencer Tracy's daughter. Yes, they used to make unnecessary sequels in the past too.

That's the end of my run through Youtube's free movie offerings. As you can tell, it's an imperfect system, but it has some nice options and it's rock cheap and that's nothing to complain about. I knew it would be a smart idea to check the site out - it's a great sign of how the Streaming Wars are shaping up, and it'll be a great resource of free movies for future reviews. I hope these two articles were helpful! I'll see you next week.


  1. Very helpful indeed.

    I recently watched Nanook Of The North on Youtube, it was a great find.

    The Buena Vista Social Club is cool, but I think I have that on DVD. Super Size Me is one I've been meaning to see though, good to know it's on youtube.

    Anyway, there seems to be a few classics on there, although I personally prefer owning the films I watch, I'm kind of obsessive with my collection...

  2. Thanks, Jack! I've been holding off on Nanook and BV - some movies you want to save for when you're in the perfect mood, y'know? Same with M - I got it years ago, still have it, still haven't seen it...

    I'll be honest, there are some movies I went out of my way to buy - personal favorites I collected. I watch them rarely. Still, I notice some come up for streaming on Netflix; then I think that I could have saved myself a few $ now & then. It sort of adds up.

    It's the same philosophy that keeps me from watching every movie - and trusting some general reviews. I know by now that watching a "rom-com" with Matthew McConaughey (except maybe Ed?) will always be a waste of time/$. You say, "maybe if it got amazing reviews."

  3. Yeah, know what you mean.
    I just can't help but have prejudices when it comes to films, I know I shouldn't really, but I just don't want to watch everything. I know what I like and I stick to it...

    M is great, you should see it. It blew my mind to be honest.
    Buena Vista Social Club is one I need to revisit, I have only vague but positive memories.

    Where I live (France) Netflix doesn't exist, so I'm forced to rely on other, less legal, means...


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