Plus Lifetime's 'Steel Magnolias,' final seasons of 'Private Practice' and 'Have Gun-Will Travel,' vintage Liberace, and more
"Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season" (Warner) brings closure to the brainy weird science fiction show of parallel universes and dimension-hopping villains with a final chapter set twenty years in the future. Also arriving is "Fringe: The Complete Series" (Warner). Videodrone's review is here.
"30 Rock: Season 7 – The Final Season" (Universal), meanwhile, brings happy endings to Tina Fey's madcap sitcom of life in the halls of network television, which isn't easy with this collection of neurotic TV stars and scheming executives. Even Fey's Liz Lemon can't sabotage this stab at a fulfilling life after 40 with a handsome (if dim) younger man (James Marsden) who adores her, and Alec Baldwin (arguably the funniest man on TV during the run of the show) takes Jack Donaghy to new heights of corporate manipulation.
There's a lot crammed into the final 13 episodes of the show (yes, it's another short finale season), which is busy with rapid-dire visual gags and non-sequitors under normal circumstances, and they manage to bring almost every significant recurring character back for a final bow. Which they take to Jenna Maroney's (Jane Krakowski) distinctive take on the theme song to "Rural Juror," a surreal piece of lyrical creation that sends off the show with the same anything goes spirit that defined the series at its best.
13 episodes on DVD, with commentary on select episodes, a series retrospective hosted by Tin Fey, deleted scenes, and "The Donaghy Files" animated webisode.
"Steel Magnolias" (Sony) is the updated TV movie remake of the hit stage play with Queen Latifah, who co-produced the film for Lifetime, Phylicia Rashad, Adepero Oduye, Condola Rashad, Jill Scott, and Alfre Woodard in the lead roles. It "may not be a great work of art, but it sure is a great vehicle for the right women," writes USA Today TV critic Robert Bianco, and this production "provides six showy, entertaining roles for those women, even if you don't always believe everything going on in the show." DVD, with an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.
"K-9: The Complete Series" (Shout Factory), the 2009 "Doctor Who" spin-off, brings British TV's favorite robot dog to late 21st century London for his own kid friendly adventures. He's protecting Earth with the help of a trio of teens (Philippa Coulthard, Daniel Webber, and Keegan Joyce) and a rogue scientist (Robert Moloney). There's no actual cross-over with the current "Doctor Who" and in fact this show isn't even from the BBC, but is an Australian production. 26 half-hour episodes on four discs on DVD, plus featurettes.
"Liberace: The Ultimate Entertainer" (Timeless), a collection sixties TV shows and TV appearances featuring the flamboyant pianist and celebrity entertainer, is timed to arrive before the upcoming HBO original film starring Michael Douglas as Liberace. This two-disc set, authorized by the Liberace Foundation, also includes home movies and featurettes. DVD.
This is the end:
"Private Practice: The Complete Sixth and Final Season" (ABC), Shondra Rhimes' more grown-up and intimate spin-off of "Grey's Anatomy," kicked off with Kate Walsh's Dr. Addison Montgomery leaving Seattle Grace for Santa Monica's Oceanside Wellness Center and a whole new ensemble. The show bids farewell to the fellowship (original partners Taye Diggs, Amy Brenneman, Paul Adelstein, KaDee Strickland, joined by Benjamin Bratt, Brian Benben, and Caterina Scorsone by season six) in a short season of 13 episodes on DVD, plus deleted scenes and bloopers.
"Have Gun-Will Travel: The Final Season" (Paramount) brings the terrific western series to a close in its sixth season. Richard Boone is Paladin, the classically educated gunfighter who lives in a San Francisco hotel, reads newspapers voraciously, quotes poetry and references Greek philosophers, and hires out his gun… but only in a just cause. He's a different kind of western hero: enigmatic, honorable, suave yet rugged, charming and chivalrous, and utterly loyal to his clients, whether they’ve hired him or he’s simply appointed himself to the case. And his distinctive character made this one of the best TV westerns of all time. 32 episodes on four discs across two volumes on DVD.
"Doc Martin: Special Collection" (Acorn) offers the complete run of the British comic drama starring Martin Clunes as a surly, insufferable London surgeon who reluctantly relocates to a sleepy seaside village when he develops a crippling fear of blood. It collects all five series of the show (38 episodes) plus the two original telefilms that launched the series. 13 discs in six cases in a box set, DVD.
"A Fine Romance: Complete Collection" (Acorn) combines all three series and 26 episodes of the Britcom starring Judi Dench and Michael Williams (her real life husband) middle-aged misfits who move in together and bumble along the rocky road to romance in a compact four-disc set. DVD.
- "Flashpoint: The Fifth Season" (Paramount), the Canadian answer to "S.W.A.T.," offers 11 more episodes on DVD;
- "Rookie Blue: The Complete Third Season" (eOne), another Canadian cop show, this one about the new kids on patrol, presents 13 episodes and almost as many supplements on DVD;
- "Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season" (Paramount) collects 38 classic episodes of the iconic western series from the 1962-1963 season on ten discs across two volumes on DVD;
- "The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Second Season" (RLJ) comes to Blu-ray as a stand-alone season, with 33 episodes and plenty of supplements
- "Felicity: Season Three" (Lionsgate) and "Felicity: Season Four" (Lionsgate) are re-releases of shows originally on disc a decade ago. DVD.
The 1964 French New Wave crime caper debuts on Blu-ray from a new high definition restoration
"Band of Outsiders" (Criterion) is one of Godard’s most cinematically playful films, an anti-"Jules and Jim" crime caper, yet more in tune with Truffaut’s sense of cinematic humor than Godard’s later politically bent works. It could be Godard's answer to "Shoot the Piano Player," with his own distinctive take on the doom of French youth playing out B-movie crime fantasies.
The 1964 B&W film stars Anna Karina (Godard's muse of the early sixties) as Odile, a veritable innocent sucked into the schemes of two best friends, the confident lothario Claude Brasseur and the shy, subservient pretty boy Sami Frey. They bounce back and forth in her affections until they begin to terrify her, yet she's too smitten to give them up. They are excitement and attention and fun for the restless Odile, a movie adventure come to life (complete with a dance number!). They, however, act more interested in each other than in the girl, who is little more than a good time and the key to an impulsive, ill-conceived crime. The chaos of the climax has a fun sense of narrative messiness that Godard never tries to clean up. He merely revels in the complications and leaves them hanging, for they matter not to our live-for-the-moment heroes.
And for those who never caught it before, this is the film that inspired the name of Quentin Tarantino's production company. The original French title of the film is "Bande a part."
Criterion released it on DVD a decade ago but remasters it from a new 2010 high-definition restoration by Gaumont Studio in France for its Blu-ray debut. It's cleaner and shows more detail than the 2003 DVD (which looked quite fine in its own right).
The supplements are carried over from the earlier DVD: video interviews with star Anna Karina (18 minutes) and cinematographer Raoul Coutard (11 minutes), excerpts from the 1964 TV documentary "Cinéma de Notre Temps: La Nouvelle Vague par elle-même" (with interviews with Jean-Luc Godard and the only known behind-the-scenes footage of Godard directing "Band of Outsiders"), Agnes Varda’s lark of a silent comedy short "Les Fiances du Pont MacDonald" (featured in her film "Cleo From 5 to 7") starring Godard and members of the cast of "Band of Outsiders," a visual glossary of references and wordplay found in the film, two trailers (including Godard’s original release trailer), and a booklet with an essay by Joshua Clover, excerpts from a 1964 Godard interview, and Godard’s own descriptions of the three main characters (originally written for the film’s pressbook).
See a clip from the Anna Karina interview after the jump. Click on "More" below
Plus the horror of 'Mama,' indie mindwarp 'Upstream Color,' 'The Rabbi's Cat' from France, and more
"Safe Haven" (Fox), this season's Nicholas Sparks adaptation, pairs up Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. "On its own merits, "Safe Haven" is about as satisfying and filling as a Valentine's Day conversation heart, with far less to say," warns MSN Movies film critic Kate Erbland. MSN has a giveaway for Mother's Day; details on the disc, the contest, and the prize package on Videodrone here.
Steven Soderbergh says that "Side Effects" (Universal) is his last theatrical feature before his retirement (he doesn't count his upcoming made-for-HBO film "Behind the Candelabra"). What begins as a medical drama of wonder drugs and pharmaceutical conspiracy turns into a sly psychological thriller, with Jude Law as a committed psychiatrist and Rooney Mara as a troubled patient with a coldy calculating soul. It's like Soderbergh's take on the Joe Esterhaus thrillers of the nineties, only smarter, more clinically-focused (as Soderbergh is wont to do), and without the ice picks.
MSN film critic James Rocchi proclaims it "a nice farewell: fun and smart, with cutting satire and blunt shocks. In fact, looking at the shooting and story of "Side Effects," it's almost perfect." Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum co-star.
Blu-ray and DVD, with featurettes and the two fictional pharmaceutical commercials seen the films. The Blu-ray also includes a bonus DVD, digital copy of the film for portable media players, and UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.
"Mama" (Universal), from producer Guillermo Del Toro and director / co-writer Any Muschietti, is "a good old-fashioned horror story, not just in tone and tenor but also in form and filming," recommends MSN film critic James Rocchi. Jessica Chastain takes top billing as the girlfriend of a guy (Nikolaj Costner-Waldau) who suddenly becomes foster father to two young nieces, who have been surviving on their own in the woods since their parents were killed in a car accident. But have they really been alone all this time?
"In an age of illogical, inconsistent, silly ghost stories and over-shot, under-written horror films like the slapdash, tedious "Sinister" and its ilk, "Mama" stands floating head and dislocated shoulders above its supernatural cinematic peers, in no small part thanks to Muschetti's direction and decisions," continues Rocchi. "As for Chastian, she's exemplary; nothing elevates a B-movie like A-level talent, and she's committed to the cause."
Blu-ray and DVD, with filmmaker commentary, a featurette, deleted scenes, and an original short film with an introduction by Del Toro. The Blu-ray also includes a bonus featurette on the special effects plus a digital copy of the film for portable media players and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.
Indies and Oddities:
"Upstream Color" (New Video), which comes to disc while still fascinating audiences in theaters, gets an unequivocal rave review from MSN film critic Glenn Kenny: "the second feature film by writer-director-performer Shane Carruth is a tour-de-force of a science fiction/horror film, conceived and executed with rare sensitivity and intelligence. It's full of genuinely creepy and disturbing moments and trucks in some genuinely creepy and disturbing ideas and concepts. For most movies nowadays, these qualities would be more than enough to qualify as something special, and something especially ambitious as well. But "Upstream Color" has more, and that's a big part of what makes it glorious, but also a big part of what makes it challenging for what we'll refer to here as the "mainstream market.""
Blu-ray and DVD, both in a very handsome paperboard case but no supplements beyond a collection of trailers. The Blu-ray features a bonus DVD. Also available On Demand.
"Starlet" (Music Box), an indie character drama from Sean Baker, "achieves a kind of subtle grace that may keep it from being the kind of film that gets embraced by a mass audience," writes The Wrap film critic Alonso Duralde, "but if you’re in the mood for a movie that rewards an attentive, intelligent viewer, it’s a joyous experience." Dree Hemingway and Bededka Johnson (who makes her acting debut at age 85) star. Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary, interviews, featurettes, and other supplements.
"Citizen Hearst" (HBO) profiles William Randolph Hearst, the legendary media mogul and yellow journalist, and the empire that continues on in his wake. " Leslie Iwerks directs and William H. Macy narrates. DVD, with 30 minutes of bonus footage and the "Heart Castle" episodes of the A&E series "America's Castles." Village Voice reviews it here.
"The Rabbi's Cat" (GKids), an animated feature from France based on the graphic novel by Joann Sfar (who adapts her book to the screen with filmmaker Antoine Delesvaux), drops a talking cat with a sardonic wit into the multicultural world of Algeria in the 1930s, where it doesn't hold back on its commentary on faith, tradition, and authority. "The film presents an often sharp commentary on dueling beliefs and idiocies that unfolds in lush pastel hues and distinctively retro drawings," writes New York Times film critic Jeanette Catsoulis. In French with English subtitles. DVD and Blu-ray, with the documentary "Joann Sfar Draws From Memory," a featurette on the film, and an excerpt from the graphic novel. The Blu-ray also includes bonus DVD.
"The Condemned" (Strand, DVD) is a haunted house horror with a psychological thriller from Puerto Rico (reviews here), and "Clandestine Childhood" (Film Movement, DVD), from Argentina, follows a family hiding its guerrilla past under false identities in the years of the military dictatorship (reviews here).
On the action side is "The Assassin's Blade" (Well Go, Blu-ray and DVD), a Chinese comedy romance with action choreography by Ching Sui Tung, and the kickboxing drama "Bunohan: Return to Murder" (Oscilloscope, DVD) from Malaysia.
- "The Oranges" (Fox, Blu-ray and DVD) is a suburban satire starring Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, and Leighton Meester;
- "Barrymore" (RLJ, Blu-ray and DVD) is a film version of Christopher Plummer's one-man stage show playing the legendary John Barrymore (for which he won a Tony Award);
- the comedy-drama "Parked" (Olive, Blu-ray and DVD) stars Colm Meaney as an unemployed man who lives out of his car, which complicates a burgeoning romance;
- "Mighty Fine" (Lionsgate, DVD) stars Chazz Palminteri and Andie MacDowell as loving parents living beyond their means seventies suburbia;
- Norman" (Freestyle, DVD) is a coming-of-age story with Dan Byrd, Emily VanCamp, and Richard Jenkins.
Most releases are also available as digital download and VOD via iTunes, Amazon, and other web retailers and video services.
The fifth and final season of the warped science fiction show declares war on the future
"Fringe: The Complete Fifth and Final Season" (Warner) is a short season of 13 episodes, but that was actually a gift to the creators and fans, not a snub.
The show was expensive and never managed to become a mainstream hit, but the fans who liked the show really, really liked it, and that fan loyalty was rewarded with a final short season, where the producers had 13 episodes to wrap up the story and give everyone some closure.
The final season jumps a couple of decades into the future teased in the flashforward episode of Season Four, where the Observers have defied their code of non-intervention and become despots slowly poisoning the atmosphere of Earth. These super-charged visitors from the future are now a repressive ruling class of an authoritarian Earth and the underground rebellion finds the Fringe division – Olivia (Anna Torv), Peter (Joshua Jackson), Astrid (Jasika Niccole), and of course the addled but brilliant Walter (John Noble) – preserved in amber (that strange substance from a parallel universe that keeps everything in suspended animation). And who should find them but the grown daughter (Georgina Haig) of Olivia and Peter, now a resistance leader using her status in the Observer-controlled Fringe Division to fight the power. Just a chip off the old blocks.
The final season is filled with just as many strange inventions and fringe science concepts as ever, but there's less humor and, oddly enough, a more linear through-line: the team have to recover a series of videotapes and go on a scavenger hunt of sorts to find the pieces necessary to execute the plan Walter concocted before losing his memory. If you're a fan, you already know that it's just that kind of show. If you're not, this season isn't going to change your mind.
Meanwhile, it brings back many of the regular and recurring characters from previous seasons, including older versions of Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick) and Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), both roused to join the resistance now that the old team is back, and the original rogue Observer September (Michael Cerveris), now reduced to mortal form for his collaboration with the humans.
There's a sense that the show has kind of lost itself in high-concept detours and this future war just doesn't offer as much creative opportunity as the dimension-hopping and warped-mirror doubles of previous seasons. But the characters hold it together and the crazy science keeps it interesting, and the creators remember that it's the humanity -- and the regret and redemption seen throughout the show -- that keeps the fans coming back.
13 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary track on just a single episode (Ep. 9, "Black Blotter"), the featurette "A Farewell to Fringe," and a half-hour Q&A from the "Fringe" panel at Comic Con 2012 with producer / writer J.H. Wyman and the cast, as well as a couple of deleted scenes, gag reel, and a digital script of the final episode.
Also arriving is the set "Fringe: The Complete Series" (Warner), which boxes up all five seasons in both DVD and Blu-ray versions. Unfortunately, I have no details on the packaging or knowledge of any supplements in this set.
Tom Cruise plays Lee Child's action hero in the first film based on the Jack Reacher novels
"Jack Reacher" (Paramount) comes to the screen after more than a dozen best-selling novels turned the former military police investigator-turned-maverick action hero into a publishing phenomenon. The fans love these books, which curiously made them resistant to the screen debut. Because the Jack Reacher of the novels is a strapping six-foot-two-inches while Tom Cruise, the star of the movie, is… considerably smaller.
But Lee Child gave his approval ("Reacher’s size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way," said Child in a 2011 interview), director / screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie wrote a sharp adaptation of the novel "One Shot" (the ninth in the series), and Tom Cruise is, well, Tom Cruise, an actor who commits completely to his films. For a small guy, he brings a convincing physical presence to the role.
And there's even a gift for the fans: Lee Child has a cameo as the cop who signs Reacher out from holding (it's about 38 minutes in on the disc). MSN has an exclusive clip with Childs on the set of the film, watching the production and performing his brief role, below.
"Tight and quick, often entertaining, "Jack Reacher" lacks nothing but juice -- the kind of high-octane cinematic fuel that turbocharged, say, Michael Mann's 'Collateral'," writes MSN Movies film critic Kat Murphy.
"Still, we get lots of creatively choreographed action -- and the welcome participation of two gratifyingly eccentric geezers. As "the Zec" ("prisoner"), survivor of Siberian gulags who once gnawed off his own frostbitten fingers, German director Werner Herzog incarnates dead-eyed evil. And Robert Duvall brings his usual folksy rectitude to the game, playing an aging Marine sharpshooter good enough -- and sufficiently ethical -- to substitute ricochets for kill shots in a firefight."
Both the Blu-ray and DVD editions feature exclusive online access to read the first chapter of Lee Child's upcoming Jack Reacher novel, "Never Go Back," before it hits stores.
The more conventional supplements are exclusive to the Blu-ray. There is commentary by Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, a second track with the isolated score and comments by composer Joe Kraemer, and three featurettes. "When the Man Comes Around" is the longest at about 26 minutes and covers the adaptation and production, "You Do Not Mess with Jack Reacher: Combat & Weapons" explores the action sequences of the film, and "The Reacher Phenomenon" is an interview with author Lee Childs. The Blu-ray also comes with a bonus DVD, digital copy of the film for portable media players, and UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.
Also available On Demand, via digital download, and at Redbox.
An exclusive clip from the Blu-ray is after the jump. Click on "More" below.
A Mother's Day collection of four movies and the books that inspired them
"Safe Haven" (Fox), this season's Nicholas Sparks adaptation, pairs up Julianne Hough as a mysterious beauty newly arrived in a North Carolina town and Josh Duhamel as a ruggedly handsome widower. Their inevitable connection is complicated by a secret from her past that (of course) follows her to this new life. Kate Erbland reviews the film for MSN Movies.
Directed by Lasse Hallström (who also did the big screen honors for Sparks's "Dear John"), "Safe Haven" arrived in theaters for Valentine's Day and comes to disc and digital just in time for Mother's Day. The DVD features deleted and extended scenes, including an alternate ending, and the Blu-ray adds three short featurettes.
To celebrate the release, MSN Movies and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are teaming up to give away an Ultimate Mother's Day gift set: a set of four movies and best-welling novels that inspired them.
In addition to the Blu-ray release of "Safe Haven" and the accompanying novel by Nicholas Sparks, this Mother's Day gift set includes:
- "Water for Elephants" on Blu-ray plus the novel by Sara Gruen
- "We Bought A Zoo" on Blu-ray plus the novel by Benjamin Mee
- "Snow Flower and The Secret Fan" on Blu-ray plus the novel by Lisa See
That's four movies to enjoy with mom, and four books she can enjoy at her leisure.
Enter to win by following these steps:
2. Share the giveaway on your Facebook with your friends and tweet and comment the following message: I want to win the @MSNmovies #SAFEHAVENFORMOM giveaway!
3. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message: I want to win the @MSNmovies #SAFEHAVENFORMOM giveaway!
4. Stay in touch with MSN Movies Facebook to see if you've been selected as the winner
Entries are accepted until Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12. Good luck, MSN Movies fans!
Our monthly round-up of direct-to-disc and made-for-cable pictures that slip on to the New Release racks
"Pawn" (Anchor Bay) "joins the pantheon of mildly entertaining thrillers having a go at the domino logic we've seen so often in these movies, starting with that classic flaw in the criminal mind that makes two-bit thugs think they can outsmart compromised cops," writes Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey. "The variations in the telling are infinite, but regardless of how it's framed, those dominoes are destined to fall. And so they do…."
This twisty little post-Tarantino crime thriller packs the chess board with a good cast of character actors: Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, plus Common, Stephen Lang, Nikki Reed, Marton Csokas, and Sean Faris as the closest thing the film has to an actual hero. It was enough to get the film a limited theatrical release. Blu-ray and DVD, with a featurette.
A slightly less expensive cast fills out "Sexy Evil Genius" (Lionsgate), the feature debut from TV writer / producer Shawn Pillar. Katee Sackhoff (of "Battlestar Galactica") is Nikki, the sexy evil genius of the title, who has lured her ex-lovers (Seth Green, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Harold Perrineau) to a bar for a little payback. William Baldwin and Anthony Michael Hall co-star in the direct-to-disc production. DVD, with commentary and a featurette. Reviews here.
In a lighter vein, "Revenge for Jolly!" features a not-quite all-star cast (Elijah Wood, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, and Oscar Isaac are plastered across the cover, and Gillian Jacobs, Kevin Corrigan, Garret Dillahunt, and indie-darling-of-the-moment Amy Seimetz also appear) getting caught up in one man's mission to avenge the death of his beloved Chihuahua. Brian Petsos stars and writes the script. Reviews here.
"D4" (Indie Go) is a secret facility where a billionaire believes her kidnapped son is being held and she hires a team of ex-military mercenaries to break in and find him. They find something, all right, and it's pretty big and mean. Darrin Dickerson, directs, writes, and co-stars in this micro-budget indie action film, and though it went direct to disc after a few film festival appearances, it's getting some love from the genre-hounds reviewers on the web. You can read some of the reviews here. DVD, with a featurette.
"Earth's Final Hours" (Anchor Bay) is SyFy Channel's most recent attempt to destroy the Earth, this one by a microscopic black hole that stops the Earth's rotation. Robert Knepper, Julia Benson, and Bruce Davison are part of the team trying to kick start the turning of the Earth. Blu-ray and DVD. Reviews here.
"Manborg" (Dark Sky) is half man, half machine, and all warrior, or so says the description on the back the box. This tiny-budget film is from director Steven Kostanski, part of the Canadian film collective Astron-6 that also made "Father's Day" and other micro-budget genre films, and it arrives on disc after a long cycle on the films festival circuit. DVD, with lots of supplements. Reviews here.
"Stitches" (Dark Sky), a gruesome Irish horror film with a macabre streak of black comedy, stars real-life comedian Ross Noble as a party clown who comes back from the dead to take revenge on the kids who killed him at a birthday party. FEARnet critic Scott Weinberg praises the film, which got a theatrical release in the UK but arrives direct to disc in the US, as "a horror flick first and foremost but it also works as a broad farce, an affectionate homage, and (at moments) a clever satire of all films in which stupid teens are in charge of saving the world." Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary, a featurette, and bloopers. More reviews here.
"Jacob" (Horizon) is a disturbed young man with a learning disability, a hulking body, and a violent nature that snaps when his nasty stepfather kills his beloved little sister. Director Larry Wade Carrell also writes and stars as Jacob, the revenge-horror answer to Lenny from "Of Mice and Men." Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary, featurettes, and deleted scenes among the supplements. Reviews here.
Is the outrage warranted as hundreds of titles rotate out of the catalog?
It's been called "The Great Netflix Purge" and "Streamageddon." Earlier this week, over 1,000 titles disappeared from Netflix.
That's actually nothing new from the streaming video service. Netflix is not a static library. It's more like a cable channel that leases the rights to movies and TV shows from a number of providers for a contracted period of time. When those contracts are up, the films are pulled. Titles routinely rotate out of the Netflix catalog at about the same rate that new titles are being added, and it has been happening all along. I've even surveyed expiring titles in past Videodrone features (one for Thanksgiving and another for titles leaving at the end of 2012)
What makes this different? Perhaps the size of this "purge," which was estimated to number about 1,800 titles. The media coverage has made it seem like some significant event, rather than business as usual, and subscribers are quick to react when it seems like they are suddenly losing something significant. And there was a fair amount of misinformation in the initial reporting, including claims that many of the disappearing titles belonged to Warner Bros. and were being reclaimed for its own fledgling streaming service, Warner Bros. Archive Instant. Warner quickly put a rest to that rumor. In fact, the titles were part of a contract with Epix, as The Telegraph reports.
And in part, Netflix itself is to blame for the outrage. Films on Netflix may sit on customer queues for months or longer, waiting to be seen by the subscriber who assumes that film or TV show will wait indefinitely for them. It can be a rude awakening to click on a title you've added to your list and find it no longer available. (Many customers -- myself included -- make use the independent site Instantwatcher.com, which uses the Netflix API to access information on the titles in the catalog, including information on when new titles arrive and when existing titles are slated to leave.)
But ultimately, this is just the evolution of the business.