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 Steve Martin, Keira Knightley, Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, Michael Caine, Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Marlon Brando, Eva Mendes, Dreama Walker, Laura Prepon, Charlton Heston, Carl Reiner, Sam Worthington, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
Most of this week’s recommendations are catalog titles newly streaming (or re-streaming), but here’s a new release of note: Ishai Setton’s comedy/drama about a surprise birthday party in which secrets are told, lies are revealed, and relationships are changed, all told in the one room where things actually happen at a house party. The picture is wildly uneven, but it’s got a snappy, conversational wit and outstanding performances by Laura Prepon, Tate Ellington, and (especially) Don’t Trust the B’s Dreama Walker. Often entertaining, frequently engaging, and energetically staged.
Fresh from its recent prominence in an episode of Mad Men (where, it must be noted, notorious spoiler-phobe Matt Weiner gave away the best twist ending in movie history), Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 sci-fi/adventure classic returns to Netflix streaming. Co-written by Twilight Zone mastermind Rod Serling, it finds Charlton “You Damned Dirty Ape” Heston traveling to a distant planet “where apes evolved from man” — or did they? If all you know of this one is Tim Burton’s painfully stupid remake, do yourself a favor and go back to the (far superior) source.
And while we’re watching Mad Men tie-in movies, those of you who are convinced that Megan Draper is Sharon Tate may want to bone up on the 1967 melodrama (based on Jacqueline Susann’s bestseller), which was Tate’s most important role and biggest Hollywood success before her murder in 1969. Meanwhile, bad movie fans will want to give this campy, pill-popping cult classic a spin as well; it’s soapy, terrible fun. The only downside: Netflix is not streaming the Russ Meyer-helmed, Roger Ebert-penned unauthorized sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Yet.
June brings a slew of Paramount catalog titles to Netflix, and while reviews then and now were middling to indifferent, your film editor has always had a soft spot for this 2001 caper movie starring the multi-generational intense-actor trifecta of Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, and Marlon Brando. Sure, it hits every single beat from every single heist movie, but the direction (from Little Shop of Horrors director Frank Oz) is tight, the plotting is clever, and it’s fun to watch these three titans spar.
This romantic drama starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, and Eva Mendes looks — at first glance — like a mannered and overwrought examination of White People Problems™. But Massy Tedjedin’s directorial debut is a complicated and nuanced examination of a married couple attempting to resist temptation; contrary to the monsters and angels normally created for cinematic takes on infidelity, it’s not a matter of good and bad relationships, or easy choices. It’s a smart, nuanced movie, with moments so honest and penetrating, it’s almost uncomfortably personal to watch.
When you think of the best work by our dear Michael Caine, you may go to his Oscar-winning turn in Hannah and Her Sisters, or maybe his iconic turns in Alfie and Get Carter (if you’re a little older), or his appearances as Alfred the Butler in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (if you’re a little younger). But one of his best performances ever — spiky, sly, witty, and effortless — came in this little-seen dark comedy/drama from 1990, in which Caine plays a passed-over ad exec who finds a murderously effective way to reposition himself.
Star Steve Martin and director Carl Reiner’s four-film run from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s — The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains, and All of Me — features some of the funniest films either man made, but this 1982 private-eye spoof isn’t just a great comedy; it’s also an impressive technical achievement and a real treat for movie buffs. Martin, Reiner, and co-writer George Gipe screened dozens of vintage film noir classics from the ‘40s and built their narrative around scenes from them, inserting Martin’s detective into the classics, replicating sets and lighting, and creating interactions between the “wild and crazy guy” and such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyk, and Lana Turner. The result is both an affectionate tribute to the era and a spot-on spoof of it.
With a cast that included such late-‘90s comedy mainstays as Ben Stiller, Janeane Garafalo, and Eddie Izzard, and fave character actors like Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Geoffrey Rush, and Paul Reubens, Mystery Men felt like it should have been a slam dunk. When it wasn’t, its rep went toxic. But viewed now — especially after nearly a decade and a half of non-stop comic book movies — this superhero spoof has its moments, particularly when Garafalo and/or Macy are on screen. And the bulk of the cast remains astonishing; whatever its flaws may be, find me another occasion when Tom Waits, Cee-Lo, Lena Olin, Kel Mitchell, Louise Lasser, Wes Studi, and Ricky Jay all appeared in the same movie.
Thanks to the addition of the excellent 30 for 30 series (and its many spin-offs), Netflix has become quite the wellspring of good sports documentaries. If you like that sorta thing, add this one to your queue post-haste; it comes from Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg (who directed the wonderful Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work), and is something of a dual profile of Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets, the only two “knuckleball” pitchers playing major league baseball. But it also looks at the history of the oft-disrespected pitch, and the other men who’ve thrown it. It all sounds very (literally) inside baseball, but there’s emotion to this story — their journeys, their struggles, and the support they’ve found from the other guys who’ve stood on the mound.
After selecting this 1979 bouillabaisse of roller disco, crime fighting, and “aaaaangel dust” as May’s “So Bad It’s Good” movie, I was disheartened to see that it wasn’t streaming on Netflix. And now, as if an answer to our collective prayers, Rudy Ray Moore’s blaxploitation classic has returned to the service, so you can enjoy every endless disco dance-off, incompetently staged fight scene, and quotable bit of dialogue at the click of a mouse. Put your weight on it.