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’re recovering from the big Netflix “Streamageddon” — but, to their credit, the service did make a healthy chunk of titles newly available (or re-available) for streaming at the end of last week. Included is good stuff from Robert Downey Jr., Reese Witherspoon, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Woody Allen, John Travolta, Michael Keaton, James Woods, Uma Thurman, Joss Whedon, and Quentin Tarantino; check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
“We love horror movies,” Joss Whedon explained at last year’s SXSW festival, where Cabin made its long-awaited premiere. “We also are very curious about what makes them tick. So we wanted to get behind the horror movie, and deconstruct it while at the same time celebrating how much fun they are.” And that’s the joy of the film (which he co-wrote with director Drew Goddard), which follows a group of attractive, horny teens to the titular structure: it manages to simultaneously embrace, spoof, and analyze the tropes of the modern horror movie — and the bloodlust of cinema in general.
The ideological antagonists facing off in Scott Thurman’s bracing documentary may not agree on much, but they could certainly concede this: today’s political battles, contrary to the narratives that take hold on the national stage, are very much being fought on the local level. The culture wars aren’t fought on the presidential campaign trail — they’re fought over the “personhood” bills in the state Senates, the measures to limit voting rights, and at the hearings of the Texas State Board of Education. Thurman’s film gets a front-row seat at the latter, where the teaching and textbook standards were bitterly fought in 2009 and 2010, determining exactly what Texas students would learn about science and American history — and consequently (due to the state’s powerful influence over textbook manufacturers) how those topics would also be taught to students across the country. It is a bitterly partisan issue, and as presented in this engrossing, well-crafted documentary, it is a genuinely compelling debate. There aren’t as many easy answers as you’d think here, no matter where you line up, and The Revisionaries must be commended and applauded for being not only thought provoking but fair — and infuriating.
Reese Witherspoon has been all over the news this week — and unfortunately, it’s not for his wonderful performance in the outstanding new indie Mud. No, it’s for a little DUI incident with her and husband James Toth, recently supplemented with video from the night in question. But if you’re in the mood for film of Ms. Witherspoon from an earlier, happier time, here you go: Netflix is now streaming The Man in the Moon, the tender coming-of-age drama that was her big-screen debut. You’re welcome.
And if you’re in the mood for something a little further off the well-trod Robert Downey Jr. path after the onslaught of Iron Man 3, fear not — here’s a long-forgotten yet utterly charming romantic comedy with a supernatural twist, circa 1993. Downey plays a cold businessman type who has been watched over, since birth, by a quartet of ghosts; years later, they discover that they need him to take care of their leftover, unfinished business. Sure, it sounds like Ghost x 4, but it’s a sweet, gentle little flick, and the supporting players (particularly Charles Grodin, Alfre Woodward, and a very young Kyra Sedwick) are gems.
Also new in this month’s batch is another forgotten ensemble comedy, this time from perpetually underrated comic director Howard Zeiff (House Calls, Private Benjamin). Michael Keaton, Peter Boyle, Christopher Lloyd, and Stephen Furst play a quartet of mental patients whose field trip to a Yankee game turns into an in-the-wild therapy session in the streets of New York. Clever and smart, with a particularly wry performance by Keaton at his fast-talking best, The Dream Team had the misfortune of being released in the spring of 1989, when everyone was already focused on Keaton’s next movie, Batman.
Stardust Memories was, oddly, one of the more lamented losses of “Streamageddon” in marathon-advisement pieces and chat boards; it’s not considered one of Woody Allen’s biggest hits, commercially or critically, but it’s aged well. However, since you can’t stream that one anymore, here’s a fine alternate: another film from Woody’s ‘80s winning streak, also in black and white, and with a broader comic voice. Allen gives one of his best performances as a small-time talent agent whose association with a washed-up crooner gets him in a bit of a pickle. The bottom-feeder character gives Allen a chance to bend his bookish persona a bit, but that stretch is nothing compared to that of Mia Farrow, utterly unrecognizable as the tough-talking dame his client loves, sorta.
Plenty of good ‘70s crime pictures got the boot last week, but here’s a noteworthy addition: the 1979 adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s nonfiction book, directed by Harold Becker (who would go on to helm Taps, Sea of Love, and Malice, among others). Franklyn Seals and a chilling (and young) James Woods play criminals who kidnap cops John Savage and Ted Danson (in his film debut). Becker’s direction is harrowing but not sensational, viewing the events through a flat, almost documentary lens that recalls — as the original book did — In Cold Blood.
Full disclosure: your film editor has not seen One Down, Two to Go. But when it popped up among Netflix’s recent additions, and revealed itself as a 1982 film featuring Richard “Shaft” Roundtree, Jim “Slaughter” Brown, Jim “Black Belt Jones” Kelly, and Fred “the Hammer” Williamson, the realization became a question — how have I not seen this? Click, add to queue, done and done.
This week’s big theatrical release is Baz Luhrmann’s 3D, Jay-Z adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, but in the meantime, you can stream this 1974 take from director Jay Clayton. Francis Ford Coppola penned the adaptation, with a bit less success than The Godfather (he later claimed his script was all but ignored); Robert Redford plays the enigmatic title character, with Mia Farrow as Daisy and a pre-Law & Order Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway.
Oh, you’ve heard of it?