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 Johnny Depp, Leonardo Di Caprio, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Roberts, Alex Karpovksy, John Hodgman, Bob Hoskins, Lena Dunham, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
If there’s one slam on the indie film scene that genuinely holds water, it’s that there’s too damn many movies about making movies; it betrays an insulation, a bubble mentality, the notion that the only life experience these people have to draw from is the act of creating a film. The complaints are legitimate, and often valid. This is not reason enough to dismiss Supporting Characters, which is a comedy/drama about a pair of mid-level film editors. Limitations of the (ostensible) subject aside, it’s a droll and knowing little film that doesn’t get bogged down in the specifics. This isn’t a groundbreaking movie — it doesn’t do anything altogether new. But it’s a smart and sophisticated effort, and as a snapshot of New York relationships (and filmmaking), it couldn’t feel more authentic.
“Deranged millionaire,” former Personal Computer, and Daily Show Resident Expert John Hodgman took to the stage of Brooklyn’s Bell House only hours before the supposed Mayan apocalypse to dispense wisdom for the ages, advice for the end of the world, trivia, and many jokes in this uproarious special, exclusive to Netflix. In interviews, Hodgman is charmingly modest about himself as a performer, insisting that what he does is not really stand-up, but whatever it may be, RAGNAROK is one of the funniest comedy specials in recent memory.
Robert Zemekis’s technologically groundbreaking and endlessly entertaining live-action/animation hybrid recently celebrated its 25th birthday, and its recent addition to Netflix streaming makes it a must-watch for the Fourth of July weekend. Bob Hoskins plays a hard-boiled detective pulled into a plot of infidelity, murder, and big-city corruption in the Hollywood offshoot of “Toontown.” It’s a true rarity: a remarkable technical achievement and box-office smash that is also witty, smart, and engaging.
Here’s another recent movie anniversary to make you feel old: Can’t Hardly Wait, that classic of late-‘90s PG-13 house partying and Jennifer Love Hewitt pining, just turned 15 years old. So yes, a baby born when it was released would be just about old enough to thrash along to “Paradise City” at that graduation bash. The film itself recently hit Netflix Instant, and let’s not kid ourselves — it’s not a great movie. But it’s full of friendly faces and warm memories, both for the time it captures and the first time you saw it (whether it was in the theater or late one Friday night on TBS).
There’s a new big, bloated, Johnny Depp-fronted summer blockbuster out this week, but truth be told, this viewer has always preferred the version of the actor who toiled away in near-obscurity, headlining smaller flicks and taking more interesting risks. Take, for example, this 1993 charmer (new to Netflix), which finds Depp channeling silent greats like Keaton and Chaplin as an eccentric movie lover who embarks on a tentative romance. It’s such a sweet little movie that you can almost forgive it for unleashing the earworm that is the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).”
More good early Depp — and what remains Leonardo Di Caprio’s best performance, as a mentally challenged teenager whose older brother (Depp) struggles to find romance and preserve his own identity while catering to the needs of his complicated family. Director Lasse Hallstrom paints an evocative portrait of small-town life, and pulls fine performances out of his entire cast, particularly Di Caprio and the extraordinary Darlene Cates, as the boys’ morbidly obese, house-bound mother.
Sam Rockwell is the fast-talking, scene-stealing standout of The Way, Way Back (out this week in limited release), which is all the excuse this viewer needs to revisit his breakout role a decade ago in George Clooney’s directorial debut. Rockwell is a cocky, dark-edged wonder as game show creator/host Chuck Barris, who claimed a double life as a CIA assassin. Clooney’s inventive direction is abuzz with the sheer joy of making a movie, and his clever lifting of flourishes from the glory years of live television pointed the way towards his more widely acclaimed sophomore feature, Good Night and Good Luck.
This raw, brutal 1977 revenge flick was, for a good long while, awfully hard to see — in spite of advocacy by Quentin Tarantino (who named his revival distribution label after it) and its featured role for an impossibly young Tommy Lee Jones. Thankfully, Shout Factory has remedied that with a recent Blu-ray release and streaming availability on Netflix. William Devane plays a recently returned vet who hunts down the thugs that killed his wife and son, resulting in a closing massacre that mirrors screenwriter Paul Schrader’s famous climax for Taxi Driver. Tough, unforgiving filmmaking.