Welcome to Flavorwire’s streaming movie guide, in which we help you sift through the scores of movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and other services to find the best of the recently available, freshly relevant, or soon to expire. This week, we’ve got titles from Liam Neeson, Richard Gere, Ben Stiller, Juliette Binoche, Adrian Brody, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Mary Tyler Moore, and Adam Sandler, a must-see documentary, and comedy from Patton Oswalt and Zach Galifianakis; check them all out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
There wasn’t reason to expect much from this frozen survival tale: it had a downright goofy trailer, director Joe Carnahan’s last film was the woeful big-screen adaptation of The A Team (which also starred the increasingly unreliable Liam Neeson), and it was released in January, traditionally the home of terrible motion pictures. And that’s why The Grey was such an incredible surprise: a tough nail-biter with a surprising existential streak, this is still one of the best movies we’ve seen in 2012.
We still lament the disbanding of “The Comedians of Comedy,” the mid-’00s alt-comedy power tour featuring Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Zach Galifianakis. The tour was documented by a hilarious documentary (itself on Netflix, and excerpted above) and a Comedy Central series (not on Netflix or DVD or anything, boo); this special, which was just added to Netflix Instant, features not only the core quartet, but also several of the acts that they would occasionally perform with (Sarah Silverman, Eugene Mirman, Andy Kindler, Dana Gould, Doug Benson, David Cross, Bob Oedenkirk, and so on). The “band” may’ve broken up, but this two-plus hour send-off remains a fine encapsulation of their scene.
Your film editor recently viewed Cosmopolis and Certified Copy in fairly close chronology, and came to what an inarguable conclusion: the fact of the matter is, none of us are going to age as gracefully as Juliette Binoche, so why bother trying? She’s not just getting sexier, she’s getting more interesting as an actor — and both of those qualities are offered in near-lethal doses in this fascinating French drama from co-writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska. Binoche plays a wife, mother, and magazine writer whose piece on prostitutes rocks (not unexpectedly) her self-image and personal life. It’s a raw movie (rated NC-17) and an equally bold performance.
Director Alex Rotaru profiles several students from multiple schools, all competing in the Drama Teachers Association of California Shakespeare Festival and Competition, in which groups of four to six teens perform cuttings from the Bard. He gets together a good cross-section of types, engages the eternal questions of staging Shakespeare (to update or not to update?), and even trots out Kevin Spacey, Richard Dreyfuss, Val Kilmer, and other all-star alumni of the competition.
Tony Kaye was in one corner of one of our all-time favorite actor/director feuds, but he’s been pretty quiet since the contentious release of American History X; he made the long, difficult, and rather brilliant abortion documentary Lake of Fire, but Detachment is his first narrative feature since going twelve rounds with Ed Norton. It was greeted with rather mixed reviews during its festival rounds and limited theatrical run last year, but with a cast like this one (Adrian Brody, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden, William Petersen, Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, James Caan), it’s gotta be worth at least a curiosity stream.
Hulu’s doing a pretty nifty spotlight on early works from your favorite directors, which reminded us of how long it’s been since we watched David O. Russell’s wonderfully funny sophomore film. Flirting has got a little bit of everything; Ben Stiller at his most neurotic, Tea Leoni at her sexiest, marvelous supporting turns from Patricia Arquette, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, and Alan Alda, that wonderful subplot with Josh Brolin and Richard Jenkins, and a glimpse of happier times for Russell and Lily Tomlin.
With The Master shattering limited-run box office records last weekend (and absolutely knocking us out with its eccentric brilliance), it’s a good time to revisit the previous films of director Paul Thomas Anderson; the only one streaming is his twisted 2002 Adam Sandler vehicle, but that’s as good a window as any into his current, prickly style — and to remind us of what Mr. Sandler is capable of when he makes the conscious decision not to slum it.
Also doing well last week in limited release was the smart and jazzily entertaining thriller Arbitrage , which serves as a fine reminder that few actors do the oily antihero as well as Richard Gere. Our favorite Gere vehicle remains the ruthlessly tricky Primal Fear, in which Gere’s ambulance-chasing lawyer takes on the juicy cast of an altar boy accused of murdering Chicago’s archbishop. The supporting cast is aces — Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Andre Braugher, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, Maura Tierney — but the ace in the hole is Edward Norton, who is utterly electrifying in his film debut.
That’s what we’re streaming this week — what about you? Let us know in the comments!