In theaters, theoretically, but easier to find on alternative platforms (Xbox LIVE, Amazon Video on Demand, etc.).

Somewhere along the line, I saw a preview for Centurion and decided I wanted to see it. I’d liked several of the relatively unknown actors in other movies (Michael Fassbender in Inglourious Basterds, for example) and was excited at the opportunity to watch them again. I’d heard interesting things about director Neil Marshall but had never checked out his break-out movie, The Descent, because horror really isn’t my thing, and a historical epic like Centurion looked more palatable. The preview’s sweeping panoramic shots of the wilds of Britain looked dramatic and gorgeous, totally the kind of thing I would love to experience on a big screen. I wasn’t expecting any kind of masterpiece, but it all looked exciting and fun. I added Centurion to my mental “to see” list.

And then, after the movie premiered, it was nearly impossible to find—and living in New York, I’m used to being able to see anything, both as soon as it’s released and weeks after. I eventually discovered that Centurion is one of those movies being released on various electronic platforms simultaneously with its theatrical release and that theaters are responding to this innovation by choosing not to show it at all. By the time I learned that, purely because I hate having even my most idle wishes thwarted, my desire to see Centurion had ramped up exponentially, so Sean and I ended up watching it On Demand (for significantly less than it would have cost to attend a theater, incidentally), and … it was okay. Completely … okay. And now I feel sort of silly about the whole deal.

Namouna, a Grand Divertissement

The New York City Ballet on Sunday, September 19.

Ballets rarely use much plot. Ideally, if there’s a narrative at all, you want just enough to immerse the dance in emotion. Works that try to pack in convoluted twists and subplots dry out in a desert of pantomime.

Alexei Ratmansky’s “Namouna, a Grand Divertissement” is not one of those over-plotted ballets. To the contrary, it’s gleefully under-plotted, hinting at familiar ballet story elements (a lovestruck young man, virtuosic pirates, a sultry seductress, a demure mystery girl, a corps made up of identical, interchangeable women) but never bothering to knit them into a coherent story. “Namouna” is deliberately elusive, all intimation and no resonance, and as such, it’s charming but emotionally empty. Calling the work a “grand divertissement” is actually quite apt: for all its grandeur, it’s a trifle. That could be criticism, I suppose, but when the trifle is so delicious, why complain?

Avatar: The Last Airbender

All three seasons on DVD and streaming on Netflix.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is definitely a children’s show. Unlike the Pixar movies or some of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, which seem to have an adult sensibility and adult rhythms underlying the animation, Avatar follows the familiar contours of kids’ programming: a single strongly expressed theme in each episode; straightforward plotting; goofy, broad humor. And yet, as the show progresses, complexities reveal themselves beneath the simplicities. The morals of the story, though transparently conveyed, are more challenging, sometimes more unsettling, than typical kids’ fare. It took most of the first season for me to settle into the guileless storytelling, even longer for the boisterous child hero Aang to endear himself to me, but the vivid Japanese-style animation held my attention in the meantime. Eventually, I could see why so many people love this show so deeply—and why M. Night Shyamalan’s widely reviled live-action adaptation of the first season is such a travesty.


On DVD and streaming on Netflix.

Clearly, I’ve played way too much Fallout 3 in my time because I could barely watch Zombieland without shrieking at the characters, who didn’t seem to have my hard-won expertise at surviving under post-apocalyptic conditions. “Shouldn’t you be foraging through that abandoned grocery store?” I’d cry. “Don’t just trash the place.” I’d shake my head in frustration when they wasted ammunition with celebratory shots in the air, and I never could handle the way they’d saunter blithely into an unfamiliar building instead of methodically scoping it out and clearing it. “These people deserve to die,” I’d grumble.

I’m not usually this insistent on practicality in suspense movies. (I rather liked Red Eye, for example, only recognizing after the fact how many flat-out idiotic mistakes Rachel McAdams makes in attempting to escape psycho Cillian Murphy.) But Zombieland pulls a bait-and-switch. The opening narration is all about our protagonist’s rules for surviving among the undead, and I was excited about this cinematic Zombie Survival Guide. Tips! But then it turns out that the movie isn’t so much about how to defeat zombies as it is about the value of community and how No Man Is an Island, et cetera, et cetera, and weirdly, this annoyed me no end. What’s more, the serious themes don’t gibe with the flip tone, making for a scattershot film, reveling in gross-out slapstick one minute and trying to do something semi-heartfelt the next. I couldn’t keep up with the record-skip mood shifts.