We’ve signed up with Netflix again. Netflix, as many of you know, is the online DVD rental outfit that allows you for $18 to rent unlimited DVDs (3 at a time) with no late fees. They now have a Salem-based distribution warehouse, so I’m hopeful that the turnaround times will be considerably better than before when we had to wait 3-4 days per title for shipments through San Jose, California. (Update: The first set of three was ordered on Tuesday afternoon and arrived in the mail on Thursday.)

In truth, I have no idea if this is going to work out. Not because of Netflix, but because our free time seems so minimal. Nonetheless, there are now plenty of movies which I’d like to rent, and given that we can cancel at any time, I figure it’s worth a shot. (Especially now that my business is starting to slow down a bit—whew, what a summer it was.)

I watched Steven Soderburgh’s star-packed Ocean’s Eleven remake first. It is very pretty, both in terms of handsome actors and beautiful cinematography. Unfortunately, it is a film utterly devoid of tension or emotional content. The caper—it’s the story of a casino robbery—is well-thought out and, as I say, pretty to watch. But there’s no audience investment in the success or failure, and pacing of the back half of the movie is by turns fast, faster, and too fast.

You also can’t help but think that a group of actors who are this talented and who, at least if the commentary track is any guide, loved worked on the project, couldn’t have been put to better use. I’ll bet there were alternate scenes—particularly with Bernie Mac—that would have made this movie a lot funnier. Not that it had to be that, but it had to be something, and recommended isn’t it.

Even more surprisingly disappointing was the highly acclaimed Peter Weir film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russell Crowe. Make no mistake: This is not a bad movie. It’s well-acted, and extraordinarily well-made. (Weir, director of The Truman Show, Dead Poet’s Society, Witness, does not make bad pictures.) As a filler for two hours of entertainment the film succeeds and can be recommended on that basis.

But it’s not particularly meaningful work, and no one is likely to come away with any sort of life-changing notions or ideas from having seen the film. For something that garnered at least 10 Oscar nominations (and won two), I expected a lot more.

[I’m presently halfway through Lost in Translation. Unfortunately, I’ve been reminded of the other Netflix bugaboo (in addition to long DVD-in-the-mail times): Scratched DVDs. I hit chapter 11 in Translation and the player froze up like a PC running Windows 95. I’ll finish the movie next week after I get the replacement disc.]