Welcome to Flavorwire’s streaming movie guide, in which we help you sift through the scores of movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other services to find the best of the recently available, freshly relevant, or soon to expire. This week, there’s good stuff from Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Paré, Wong Kar-wai, Sofia Coppola, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
It only seemed like Jessica Paré popped up out of nowhere to become the second Mrs. Don Draper (and a possible murder victim, apparently). But she had a decade of quiet work behind her before landing that plum role, and the highlight of her early filmography is probably this thoughtful 2001 drama, which finds Ms. Paré in a private school romance with Piper Perabo (of Coyote Ugly). And yes, there’s some of that stuff too, pervert.
When I wrote about this jaw-dropping, insanely bad, yet giddily entertaining power-rock-meets-kung-fu saga as the inaugural entry in our “So Bad, It’s Good” series, it wasn’t streaming — you had to go track that bad boy down in physical form, like it was 2002 or something. Now it’s streaming, so you can enjoy this hilarious compendium of warmed-over clichés from kingpin stories, ninja movies, early rock videos, after-school specials, and Miami Vice reruns. About half the running time is occupied by comically inept fight scenes; the rest is chock full of laughable dialogue, wooden acting, and astonishingly cheeseball songs (performed, without fail, in their brutal entirety). Utterly unintelligible leading man Y.K. Kim co-wrote and co-directed this giggle-inducing yet earnest disaster, in which the scent of sweaty, sleazy, headband-sporting dirtbag all but wafts from the screen.
Any time we can work a little bit of Christopher Walken into a supercut, we will, so it was just plum good luck that Mr. Walken played the thieving, conniving pappy to Sean Penn in this 1986 drama from director James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross). Luckily, the film just appeared on Netflix Instant, so you can enjoy all of Walken’s terrible parenting and peculiar line readings.
This week’s big theatrical release is World War Z, a giant, expensive summer blockbuster starring Brad Pitt. He does that kinda thing well enough, but this viewer has always preferred his work in smaller flicks — like this odd, engaging 1991 comedy from director Tom DiCillo. Bonus: though the director has frequently insisted the contrary, the spacey, handsome leading man character in DiCillo’s “making an indie movie” comedy Living in Oblivion is widely believed to have been based on Mr. Pitt.
Last week, we brought you a countdown of the greatest antiheroes in movie history — a list that ended up surprisingly short on both female characters and movies currently available on Netflix. Neither was due to a lack of looking, but here’s one that fits both categories: Jason Reitman’s jet-black 2011 comedy/drama, starring Charlize Theron as a miserable ghostwriter who decides to steal back her high school boyfriend from his wife and baby. It’s easy to imagine, in lesser hands, what an obvious, cartoonish effort this could have been; it’s the kind of shrill, half-assed comedy that Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl could do in their sleep. But this isn’t an obvious movie, or an easy one. Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody see the easy jokes, the pat conflicts and expected payoffs, and decide to bypass them. In doing so, they discover something infinitely more interesting, and convey substantially more truth. Young Adult sounds utterly trite and predictable, but the laughs stick in your throat.
Another notable entry on the antihero list, this raw-as-they-come 1992 film caught Harvey Keitel on the verge of his re-emergence as the patron saint of ‘90s indie cinema, and enfant terrible director Abel Ferrera at his grimy, sweaty, brilliant peak. He observes the grimy New York City locations with the precision and detail of a good documentary, and the grubby aesthetic is just right. But the point of interest here is Keitel’s take-no-prisoners performance, which is surely the finest work he’s ever done in a film, with a handful of moments where we’re not sure what he’s doing, but it’s not acting — it’s too painfully personal for that. It’s a dirty bomb of a performance, and while Bad Lieutenant’s not exactly fun to watch, those who can take a film this potent will find that Ferrara does his job with undeniable skill, and Keitel’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary.
Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, which has become a pretty popular topic of conversation around here, opens in a few more markets this week, which is a fine reason to revisit her lovely 2003 Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay. It’s a film that improves with age, its moody, elegiac style capturing the quiet loneliness of hotel bars and foreign soils, and the fragile but forceful emotions of short-term attractions. All of that, plus Bill Murray singing karaoke.
This is one of those weeks where the new streaming releases are slim and tie-ins to current movies are slimmer, but thankfully, our friends over at IndieWire have a solution: a list (and links) to 57 of their favorite movies of the ‘00s, all currently streaming on Netflix. That’s about all the excuse I need to recommend In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai’s wistful, gorgeous, and unforgettable story of betrayal and unrequited love in 1960s Hong Kong. It’s an extraordinarily quiet movie, one that lives in silences and things unsaid, and is all the more poignant for it.