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, we’ve got great stuff from Richard Gere, Forest Whitaker, David Cross, Susan Sarandon, Casey Affleck, Tim Roth, Julia Stiles, Brit Marling, Dave Grohl, Chloe Grace Moretz, Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
If there were ever a role that Richard Gere was born to play, Robert Miller, the high-profile financial whiz at the center of Nicholas Jarecki’s sleek pop thriller Arbitrage, may very well be it. He can do this kind of smooth, fast-talking, confident, and handsome weasel in his sleep, but he doesn’t sleepwalk through the film — instead, he brings his (and our) familiarity with this type to the character, and squeezes it. The film itself moves fast and is fun to watch, but it’s junk food, a cinematic beach read. Yet there’s a messiness to Gere’s performance that lingers long past the end credits. (Streaming on Netflix.)
We mentioned this one in our July 4 roundup of great movies from earlier in the year to watch on demand, but it’s now moved over to Netflix Instant, so it’s worth recommending again. A This Is the End for the indie-minded, this comedy of manners from writer/director/actor Todd Berger tells the tale of a “couples brunch” gone awry when a disaster cripples their city, an uncorked chemical weapon making death within hours all but certain. And that’s the setup for the darkest comedy in many in moon, gingerly treading a very fine line between hilarity and panic, the considerable humor provided mostly by the expected but nonetheless inspired juxtaposition of extraordinary catastrophe and the participants’ everyday, even petty responses. (Full review here; streaming on Netflix.)
Bob Fass speaks to the night people, “the unsung heroes of New York City.” His voice is smooth but occasionally halting, stopping to search for words, deciding where he wants to go next. His show is not scripted, or even planned — he’s one of the creators of “free-form radio,” a stream-of-consciousness broadcasting style that rolls with the punches and lets the listeners take much of the responsibility. He broadcasts to an “invisible community” — he calls them a “cabal” — and has done so on NYC’s WBAI radio since 1963. Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson’s documentary about Foss takes the name of his show and applies it to his entire career, and his life (which are basically one and the same). His story is the story of the New York counterculture, and these recordings (and the valuable archival footage accompanying them) are a living, breathing, vital history of that time. (Available for rental or purchase on Amazon Instant Video.)
Foo Fighter-turned-filmmaker Dave Grohl’s loving tribute to analog is a two-part story: a history of the legendary Van Nuys studio of the title (where everyone from Tom Petty to Fleetwood Mac to Johnny Cash to his own Nirvana recorded) and a chronicle of the project he undertook when it shuttered, grabbing the site’s beloved Neve Console and using it to put together an all-star album. Some of Grohl’s voice-over is strained, and it’s got that awkward director/narrator/interview subject hybridization (who’s interviewing him, exactly?), but there’s a wonderful musicality to the structure and editing, and the footage, both archival and new, is endlessly entertaining. (Streaming free for Prime members on Amazon Instant Video.)
With Kick-Ass 2 heading into theaters this week and Carrie on deck for Halloween, it’s a busy fall for Chloe Grace Moretz, one of our most interesting, gifted, and versatile young actresses. This 2011 indie didn’t make much noise critically or commercially — most presumed it to be a second-rate Natural Born Killers rip-off — but it’s a smarter and more daring movie than that, and Moretz is mesmerizing in the lead. Hell, even Blake Lively’s not bad in it. (Streaming on Netflix.)
This week’s other big release is The Butler — oh, sorry, Lee Daniels’ The Butler (just so you didn’t think they were re-releasing that silent short film), which stars Forest Whitaker, in a rare case of a movie that seems to know what to do with him. Even after his Oscar win back in ’07, Whitaker’s filmography remains a bizarre stew of straight-to-DVD throwaways and tiny roles in giant ensembles. But he’s never been a conventional actor — take, for example, his terrific supporting turn in Neil Jordan’s 1992 sleeper hit. Whitaker only appears in the first act, but makes an indelible impression, and sets up the rest of the film with subtle power and skill. (Streaming on Netflix.)
Also this week (in limited release), Casey Affleck co-stars in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a quiet, evocative story of a Texas thief who escapes from prison to return to his wife and child. The Massachusetts native looks mighty comfy in a cowboy hat, and for good reason; this is far from the first time he’s played a morally ambiguous Texan. Back in 2010, he starred in Michael Winterbottom’s controversial film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel. It’s a tough, hard-boiled little picture, cold and brutal and efficient, and while the violence is jaw-dropping, the craftsmanship on display is undeniable. And the black-hearted storytelling, true to the source material, will fascinate those with the stomach for it.