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 great flicks from Jack Nicholson, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, Clive Owen, Michelle Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Harvey Keitel, Pam Grier, Toni Collete, Stanley Kubrick, and David Cronenberg. Check them all out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
You have to admire Robert Pattinson for starring in this peculiar mindfuck from director David Cronenberg, if for no other reason than the image of Team Edward bum-rushing the theater, only to stumble out two hours later with no idea what the hell they’d just seen. The film itself, new this week on Netflix Instant, is a peculiar enterprise — strangely antiseptic in a way that is surely purposeful yet still alienating. But it’s certainly worth a look; if there’s a bit too much in the way of verbose weirdos spouting faux-intellectual platitudes, Cronenberg’s distinctive eye for composition is fully engaged, and there are flashes of excitement and jolts of electricity spread throughout.
A likable, modest feature directorial debut (also new this week on Netflix) from Scream actor and ‘90s artifact Matthew Lillard, who here tells the tale of a high school outcast who finds something resembling confidence and self-identity through punk rock — but, more importantly, he finds a friend with problems of his own. It’s a fairly sly piece of narrative handiwork, where you think it’s going to be one kind of movie, and it subtly becomes something else. And if both movies are awfully familiar, it’s forgivable in a picture as fundamentally sweet as this one.
With The Place Beyond the Pines hitting theaters this week, it’s a fine time to revisit the first collaboration between director Derek Cianfrance and star Ryan Gosling. The filmmaker spent something like a dozen years trying to make this portrait of a marriage — contrasting the early mad-love moments with the crumbling unhappiness of its final days — and ended up with a powerful showcase for stars Gosling and Michelle Williams. It’s the closest thing we’ve had in recent years to the best of John Cassavetes, with that same relentless drive for emotional truth, no matter how ugly the results might be. It is a cold, hard, unforgiving, brilliant movie.
And if you’re in the mood for a little more Gosling, we’d suggest this mostly overlooked 2010 release from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), who spins the seedy, scary, and genuinely weird true story of Robert Durst, son of a wealthy New York real estate mogul, suspected of committing (or at least being involved in) three separate murders in New York, California, and Texas. Gosling is somehow both impenetrable and impossible to take your eyes off of, but the real performance of note here is Dunst’s. Her work was overshadowed somewhat by Melancholia (released the same fall), but both films confirm that this is an actor of real skill who we’re not seeing enough of these days.
If it’s a little depressing to see a talented Oscar winner like William Hurt slumming it in something like the Stephenie Meyer adaptation The Host, it’s not exactly new; Hollywood hasn’t known what the hell to do with the lanky, weathered actor for quite some time now. But if you’d like a reminder of what he’s capable of, Netflix is streaming his wonderful performance in the 1995 movie Smoke, director Wayne Wang and writer Paul Auster’s charming portrait of a Brooklyn neighborhood and the people who inhabit it. Hurt is marvelous as the Auster stand-in, flanked by Harvey Keitel, Forest Whitaker, Stockard Channing, Ashley Judd, Jared Harris, and a pre-Oz, pre-Lost Harold Perrineau Jr. doing some of his best work to date.
This week brings, at long last, the release of Room 237 , the riveting/hilarious feature-length examination of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and the many loony interpretations of it that have popped up in the 30-plus years since its release. But trust us — before you get your mind blown by director Rodney Ascher and his five Kubrickians, you’ll want to take another look at the object of their discussion. For fun, take a moment afterwards and imagine the nuttiest theory you can for what it’s actually about; extra points if your crackpot notion appears in Room 237. (It probably will.)
Also out this week is Wrong , the latest oddball black comedy from weirdo writer/director Quentin Dupieux. We don’t call him that lightly, or without reason — his previous feature, after all, was Rubber, about a tire that comes to life and destroys people via telekinesis. No, really, that’s the plot of the movie. Don’t believe me? Go watch it on Netflix. See you in 82 minutes.
Also out this week is Mental, a new comedy/drama from director P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding) that reunites him with star Toni Collette. The pair last collaborated on Muriel’s Wedding, the 1994 Australian rom-com that broke both of them internationally (as well as the great Rachel Griffiths). It also may have helped bring about the ABBA revival, and thus (indirectly) Mama Mia!, so, y’know, there’s some evil here. But still: well worth a look!
The folks at the invaluable Instant Watcher site tell us that this 2011 drama from director David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) is leaving Netflix streaming tomorrow, so grab it while you can — it’s a fine, harrowing piece of work. Clive Owen plays an ad exec whose young daughter is lured to a meeting with a boy she meets online and subsequently raped, but the events that follow don’t unfold like you’d think. It’s a tough, uncompromising movie, hard to watch, offering no easy answers or pat resolutions; the subject matter could have (and has been) done at TV-movie level, and while there are moments that veer dangerously close to that, the sensitivity and intelligence of the telling and (especially) the playing pulls it back.
Last weekend’s Pam Grier retrospective at Lincoln Center (and her wonderful Sunday afternoon chat, including the story of how she once made fried pigeon for Federico Fellini) got us in the mood for some vintage Grier, and while some of her most iconic films are available for streaming (everything up to Friday Foster is well worth your time), we’d recommend this giddily enjoyable 2010 documentary, which tells the story of how the Philippines became a haven for low-budget exploitation filmmakers in the 1970s. There are plenty of clips from Grier’s first films, along with her hilarious stories of working on location in Southeast Asia. Several other legends of the era (including actors Sid Haig and Colleen Camp and directors Roger Corman, Joe Dante, and John Landis) throw in their recollections as well.