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, there’s good stuff from Kristen Bell, Greta Gerwig, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Sarah Polley, Julie Christie, and the Star Trek crew; check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
Dax Shepard and David Palmer’s B-movie tribute is not a great film, not by a long shot, but boy is it easy to like. Tonally, it’s a bit of a mess, an uneasy hybrid of ‘80s action/comedy homage, Tarantino-esque two-handers, and heartfelt relationship stuff — something like a True Romance remake directed by Hal Needham. So it’s too busy and too scattered, but honesty must prevail: it is filled with laughs, many of them hearty. More importantly, they’re trying things here, throwing some curveballs, and going for broke with an enthusiasm that is very difficult to keep from surrendering to. And the film almost solves the increasingly perplexing dilemma of what to do with Kristen Bell (Shepard’s real-life lady); it comes as close as any movie has to bottling that particular quality that she has on Ferguson, of capturing her wit and charm and putting it to good use.
It would be difficult to imagine a film reaping greater benefit from Downton Abbey Fever than this period British drama set in a large aristocratic home, a film even courteous enough to include Elizabeth McGovern in the matriarchal role. But the movie is bound to suffer in comparison with that acclaimed series — primarily because of director Donald Rice’s decision to eschew the Downton-style drollery and wit of the first act in order to focus on the rather less compelling romance at the center. Still, there’s an awful lot in it to embrace, from pretty people and gorgeous costumes to swoony writing and frisky playing.
Ben Wheatley’s dark, funny, and terrific Sightseers hit theaters last Friday, and as if on cue (on queue?), Netflix has made his previous picture, Kill List, available for streaming. This one’s much more serious business, a kind of art house mash-up of horror, mystery, and working-class realist drama. Disturbing, creepy, and frighteningly effective.
This fascinating 2002 documentary from Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak has been out of print for years, but the filmmakers have now made it available for free streaming on Vimeo. It’s both terrifically entertaining and a bit of a cautionary tale, focusing on a quintet of New Yorkers whose cinephilia borders on compulsion (and sometimes crosses that border). Your film editor saw this one just before moving to New York, and was tickled to find its subjects at screenings after I arrived — but I also realized that if I was seeing them too much, that could be a worrisome sign. A funny and thoughtful look at this city’s revival scene in particular, and obsession in general.
This week’s big blockbuster release is J.J. Abrams’ sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, and there’s Trek a-plenty on Netflix, including full runs of both the original series and The Next Generation . But the most appropriate (and time-efficient) bit of prep for the new film would be a return visit to the original film series’ first sequel, which handily tops the original in dispensing with all the throat-clearing and getting down to the business of being a good sci-fi/action yarn, motored by an unforgettable villain.
This week at the indie cinema, we have Noah Baumbach’s lovely and charming Frances Ha , in which the Greenberg director reunites with the film’s leading lady, the inimitable Greta Gerwig. But she also co-writes the film — no surprise to those who’ve been following her from the “mumblecore” days, in which she often sported screenplay credits as well as on-screen roles. She gets an “additional material” credit for this lively and funny 2011 comedy from writer/director Alison Bagnall, in which Gerwig stars as a jilted wife whose quest for revenge takes a surprising turn. Amy Seimetz (recently seen in Upstream Color) co-stars.
As her latest directorial effort Stories We Tell dazzles and moves critics and audiences, it’s easy to forget that we’ve gained a fine filmmaker in Sarah Polley, but lost a terrific actress. Take, for example, this befuddling yet richly rewarding 2002 film from the always-compelling Hal Hartley, in which Polley stars as a reporter who encounters a peculiar creature on an investigation in Iceland. Helen Mirren and Julie Christie co-star.