Remember the time when, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to take an object and put it inside of another object? Aren’t you glad we’ve transcended that crude practice? For this I say, thank you Netflix, for taking us out of the stone ages and into the age of — instant gratification. Each week, dozens of new movies and television shows are made available for free to Netflix subscribers to watch instantly on their PCs as well as select game consoles and DVD players. The Web site instantwatcher.com gives a full listing of new streaming titles. This column attempts to highlight the best of the best.
Recommended “Watch Instantly” Additions for the Week of July 4-11, 2010
Noriko’s Dinner Table (Noriko no shokutaku), 2005, From Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono, a sequel of sorts to his controversial 2002 film Suicide Club (Suicide Circle in Japan.) The ultra-gory Suicide Club dealt with police investigating a wave of seemingly unconnected suicides. The sequel also deals with the theme of suicide, with a plot involving a 17-year-old schoolgirl who runs away from home and joins a suicide cult. Haven’t watched this yet but sounds promising. Even if you’ve never seen Suicide Club, you may have heard about its opening scene which involves dozens of Japanese schoolgirls throwing themselves in front of a speeding subway train. Teenage girls are soooooo dramatic!
Black Dynamite, 2009, A spot-on send-up of 1970s blaxploitation films directed by newcomer Scott Sanders and starring Michael Jai White, a former bit player in television and film. White is smooth as hell as the title character, swaggering and putting jive turkeys in their place by dealing out kung-fu justice like Shaft on amphetamines, only with 10 times the firepower and 20 times the staying power — just ask the ladies. Funny and crude but surprisingly smart, this movie’s both lovingly pays tribute to the blaxploitation genre while at the same time parodying its over-the-top style and cliches. That’s a tough act to pull off but Black Dynamite does it, sucka. An awesome soundtrack, to boot. What can I say? I love this movie. Check it out.
Aftermath, 2004, Total freak show of a short film by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Cerda about an employee at a morgue who takes an unhealthy interest in the corpse of an attractive woman. Extremely gory — we’re talking flat out vile. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m including this here other than it being an example of the kind of out there stuff Netflix is offering on demand — and there’s some really weird shit if you look for it. My wife believes the lead actor looks like Mr. Bean. If so, this is the most fucked-up episode of Mr. Bean I’ve ever seen. On second thought, don’t watch this unless you’ve got a really strong stomach and a really morbid curiosity. Seriously. You’re not going to listen to me, are you?
Session 9, 2001, Haven’t watched it yet, but I’ve heard good things about this movie, which takes place in an abandoned psychiatric hospital — always a good setting for for a horror film. David Caruso, who stars in this, is a vastly underrated actor. Brad Anderson, who directed it and 2004’s The Machinist, has an impressive resume. It’s in my queue.
Barton Fink, 1991, My favorite Coen Brother’s movie, if I had to name one. Hands down, the Brother’s strangest film with Coen regular John Tutturo playing a screenwriter with the WORST CASE OF WRITER’S BLOCK EVER. Utterly unnerving. Only Eraserhead rivals Barton Fink in the incredible speed at which a movie can go from being hilarious to downright creepy (Don’t tell me that dinner scene in Eraserhead isn’t hysterical.) There’s never been another film like Barton Fink and I can’t imagine there ever will be.
Futurama Vol. 1-4 and Nip/Tuck Seasons 1-6, My wife loves Futurama. I was never a fan, but then probably never gave it a fair shake. Maybe I’ll give it another chance now. Nip/Tuck‘s got quite a following — or so I’ve been told. Have yourself a marathon with these two shows.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2009, The film adaption of the Swedish crime novel of the same name, the first part of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which also includes the books The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest (the film adaptions of the later two novels are set to be released this year.) The film’s plot involves a disgraced journalist hired to investigate the disappearance of a young girl by her foster father. Meanwhile, the journalist himself is under surveillance by a 24-year-old computer hacker — a troubled young woman named Lisbeth Salander who dresses like a character from Shadowrun and could easily be dismissed as a wanna-be cyberpunk if her constant brooding and penchant for black clothing were not matched by her talent in computer hacking. I have started but not finished watching this movie — I’m only about 1/2 an hour in — and already the plot has become pretty twisted. Although I have not read the book, with 2 more hours left to go I expect the story to get as complex as the assembling instructions for a four-piece bedroom set from IKEA before it all comes together. Pretty enjoyable so far, but I’ll reserve my judgment for now. Check it out for something to talk about with that cute girl from Barnes & Noble the next time you see her.
Hannah Takes The Stairs, 2007; Nights and Weekends, 2008; Alexander the Last, 2009; A three-pack of indie goodness from “mumblecore” director Joe Swanberg. I’ve seen Hannah but have not seen Swanberg’s other two films and am excited to now have the opportunity. If you ever find yourself wondering what happened to great indie films, the likes of which proliferated the early to mid-1990s, look no further than Swanberg and his contemporaries. The ability of any budding filmmaker to pick up a relatively inexpensive digital camcorder from Best Buy and make a movie has been both a blessing and a curse. On the downside, you have a constant flood of cheaply-made Blair Witch rip-offs. On the upside, you have movies like Hannah Takes the Stairs.
Mary and Max, 2008, Animated film featuring the voice talent of Toni Collette and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. From writer/director Adam Elliot, who did the short film Harvey Krumpet, also available to watch instantly. Harvey Krumpet was awesome and the previews for this film looked great.
Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005, Back and Forth. Forever. I love this film. Full of oddball characters — but realistic in their strangeness. You may disagree with me. You probably will.
The Baxter, 2005, Another personal favorite of mine. A rom com written and directed by comedian Michael Showalter (The State, Wet Hot American Summer, Stella), co-starring Michelle Williams, Elizabeth Banks and Justin Theroux. Cameos from Paul Rudd and Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Elf), as a gay wedding planner. Showalter’s Stella buddies, Michael Ian Black and David Wain, make appearances as well. Showalter plays the “baxter”? What’s a baxter? Remember the ending of The Graduate, when Dustin Hoffman runs off with the girl? Well, it was the baxter left standing at the altar. My Michelle Williams crush began with this movie. Watch it and you’ll understand why.
Also noteworthy additions this week: Capitalism: A Love Story, A Girl Cut in Two, Paranoid Park, The Saddest Music in the World, Savage Grace