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 Michelle Williams, Colin Firth, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Olsen, John Cusack, Annette Bening, Grace Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Silverman, and Geoffrey Rush, plus Oscar winners, two terrific documentaries, a cult TV fave, and fine films from Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock. Check them all out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
A computer screen or an iPad doesn’t quite feel like the right way to view Scorsese’s big-canvas, big-budget, 3D family picture, but we’ll say this: it’s such a delightful charmer that it certainly doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. Take them away, and you’ve got a heartbreaking story of a lonely kid, the warm tale of his budding friendship with a spectacular girl, yet another pitch-perfect Ben Kingsley performance, and about the most entertaining lesson in cinema history you can imagine.
It seems like we’ve been advocating for this one all damn year, and we’re not gonna stop now; writer/director Sarah Polley, one of the most promising young filmmakers on the scene, constructs a delicate, heartfelt, and ultimately shattering portrait of a marriage that goes awry, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever. Yet another masterful performances from Michelle Williams, along with surprisingly effective comic-yet-serious turns by Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman.
You don’t have to be a fan of Tony Bennett to be intoxicated by this stylish documentary portrait, which is less about the man himself than his effortless sense of cool — and how that quality manifests itself in his life now. Hanging out with the living legend in his home, on the road, and in the studio, the film’s atmosphere is charming, mellow, and low-key; you just want to bathe in the warmth of his glow, to soak up the vibe in those rooms, to find this life as much a treat as he does.
Documentarian Kirby Dick has carved out something of a specialty in righteous indignation, and he’s never had a topic more deserving of his fury than the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. Talking with several women (and men) in uniform who were victims of rape — and usually subjected to more severe punishment than those who assaulted them — Dick mounts a compelling case for genuine injustice, and leaves the viewer furious yet moved.
Look, we weren’t exactly crazy about King’s big wins, including Best Picture, at the 2011 Oscars. But those complaints were mostly borne out of a sense that it was a fine little film that had been wildly overpraised, and awarded over more deserving efforts (it was, truth be told, our least favorite out of that year’s entire Best Picture pack, which included Inception, The Social Network, True Grit, Black Swan, Toy Story 3, The Kids are All Right, and Winter’s Bone). But seen outside of that context — and on a small screen, where it seems a bit more at home — it does hold up, and that Firth-Rush two-act is a firecracker.
Let’s be clear: Silent House is not a great thriller. But it does have a great gimmick — it takes place in real time, in what is cleverly made to look like one continuous, unbroken shot. This kind of thing has been done before, but it’s done very, very well here, and directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau manage to harness the anxiety of the trick to create a genuine sense of dread and unease. Plus, there are few actors we’d rather watch work for 86 continues minutes than Elizabeth Olsen.
We’ve been talking quite a bit about Hitchcock around here lately, between that big Blu-ray box, the theatrical release of Hithcock, and the streaming of his long-thought-lost early film The White Shadow . So there’s good reason to go looking for more Hitch online — though it saddens us to report that there aren’t as many of his films streaming (legally, anyway) as we’d like. That said, Netflix has his taut 1954 thriller Dial M for Murder (starring Grace Kelly, the ultimate “Hitchcock blonde”) and his delightfully droll 1938 mystery/comedy The Lady Vanishes, while Hulu has the tightly constructed and marvelously entertaining 1935 effort The 39 Steps and four seasons of his anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Hitch only directed a few of the episodes himself, but his dry introductions are always enjoyable, and are wittily appropriated for Hitchcock.
Warning — if you’ve been letting the two seasons (seven episodes in each) of this terrific series languish on your instant queue, you’d better get on it; Spaced drops off Netflix Instant on December 1st, and there’s just no excuse for not indulging in this dizzingly geeked-out comedy from director Edgar Wright, who would later direct Spaced co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s okay, you can click away now. Just thanks us later.
One of our biggest disappointments from this year’s Sundance Film Festival was Lay the Favorite, a great-sounding (yet bafflingly uneven) comedy/drama starring Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vince Vaughn. Sure, not everything that cast touches turns to gold, but Favorite is the work of Stephen Frears, one of the most underrated directors in the biz. It hits theaters next week, but trust us, you can wait to stream that one (and then, only for Hall’s delightfully daffy performance); instead, we’d recommend going back in the Frears filmography to his 1990 adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel, starring John Cusack as a second-tier con artist, Annette Bening as the femme fatale who can’t wait to get her hooks into him, and Anjelica Huston as the mother he’s a little too close too. It stands alongside The Last Seduction as the best of the 1990s neo-noirs, plus it’s got one of the all-time great Martin Scorsese voice-overs.
That’s what we’re watching this week — what about you? Let us know in the comments!