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 great stuff from Dustin Hoffman, Jeff Bridges, Ryan Gosling, Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, Carey Mulligan, Kristen Stewart, John Malkovich, Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, Albert Brooks, Bill Hader, Ted Danson, Kristen Wiig, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
The most interesting of the week’s new Netflix Instant releases is this lo-fi horror effort from last year, directed (surprisingly enough) by Rain Man and Wag the Dog’s Barry Levinson. And while it’s strange to see the character-based comedy/drama specialist delving into the waters of found-footage horror (his only previous film to even tinker with supernatural elements was Sphere, not exactly a career highlight), the fact that he made a genre films as taut and effective as The Bay is a pleasant surprise — this is a genuinely unnerving piece of creepy-crawly craftsmanship that gets (almost literally) under your skin. Contrary to popular opinion, this kind of thing is not easy to do well. Maybe it took a director of Levinson’s skill to slum so successfully.
Fresh from a wonderfully bananas Reddit AMA, John Malkovich hits the multiplexes this weekend in Red 2, the sequel that nobody was asking for to the movie everyone enjoyed enough without realizing it was successful enough to warrant another one. At any rate, there’s plenty of good Malkovich on Netflix these days — his Of Mice and Men is well worth your time, as is the challenging South African drama Disgrace , and you don’t have to be told to watch Being John Malkovich again — but the most fascinating curio is this 1985 made-for-TV adaptation of Arthur Miller’s classic. Dustin Hoffman is expectedly brilliant as Willy Loman, but Malkovich is something of a revelation as his son Biff; it’s strange to see the actor so young, and in such a conventional role, but he invests it with effective doses of poignancy and anger.
This week also sees the theatrical release of R.I.P.D., a movie that wants to be Men in Black so bad, I’m surprised Ryan Reynolds isn’t doing a pop/rap tune over the end credits. Collecting what one can only hope is a nice paycheck in the “grizzled old pro” role is Jeff Bridges, so why not skip that tired retread an enjoy this mostly unseen comedy from 2005? Michael Traeger’s story of a small town that bands together to make a porno movie is expectedly (and sometimes lazily) raunchy, but it’s a funny picture with some surprising sweetness, and the ensemble cast is a character actor dream team: not only Bridges but Ted Danson, John Hawkes, Lauren Graham, Tim Blake Nelson, Joe Pantoliano, Tim Blake Nelson, Patrick Fugit, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Brad William Henke, and Glenne Headly.
Mr. Reynolds’ participation in R.I.P.D., meanwhile, means that I have an always-welcome excuse to recommend Greg Mottola’s lovely 2009 coming-of-age dramedy, which is also worth seeing if you’ve recently enjoyed the thematically similar The Way Way Back . Jesse Eisenberg plays a college grad stuck at home who ends up working at a local amusement park, where he falls for a fellow employee (Kristen Stewart, very good) who can’t let go of her married boyfriend (Reynolds). Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Martin Starr round out the terrific cast.
Here’s the most obvious recommendation of the week: if you’d like to get in the mood for Only God Forgives, the bizarre new drama from director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling, feel free to revisit their last collaboration, a perpetual Netflix favorite. This tale of a stunt driver and his life of crime is a dark, brutal, wildly unpredictable slab of nihilistic cinema that is filled with homages and echoes yet is its own fierce, savage beast. With its wild tonal shifts and blood-spattered back half, Drive dances right up to the edge of parody, but miraculously doesn’t cross it. Many say Refn and Gosling’s latest does, and as its mostly negative reviews prompt the inevitable “their last one wasn’t good either!” second-guessing, remember what a weird, twisted, memorable bit of B-movie decadence it always was.
This 1987 action/comedy was recently added to Amazon Instant Video’s free streaming for Prime members, but it’s not like this fan needs a peg to recommend it; it’s one of those cable favorites that it’s impossible to turn past, and those of us who saw it at the right age will take just about any excuse to watch it. Dennis Quaid plays a daredevil test pilot who is miniaturized for a Fantastic Voyage-style experiment, only to be accidentally injected into an average schmuck (Martin Short). Meg Ryan co-stars (it’s the film where she and Quaid met, sad trombone); Joe Dante (Gremlins) directs with his customary giddy energy and high style.
We try to keep this space devoted solely to movies, but our recent chat with Scott Aukerman prompted us to note that the entire ten-episode first season of his bizarre, surreal, and utterly hilarious IFC iteration of Comedy Bang! Bang! is streaming on Netflix. It’s a killer season — consistently weird and funny, and the parade of guest stars seems scientifically calibrated to include our favorite people: Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Zack Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks, Seth Rogen, Weird Al, and on and on.