Flavorwire’s Guide to Movies You Need to Stream This Week

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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 Leonardo DiCaprio, Julianne Moore, Carey Mulligan, Greta Gerwig, Alexander Skarsgård, Guy Pearce, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tobey Maguire, Steve Coogan, Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, Christopher Walken, Ben Stiller, Rosario Dawson, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.

The Great Gatsby

Hollywood’s never quite gotten a handle on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, and Baz Lurhmann’s recent adaptation is burdened with the kind of hyperactive, overanxious style that we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker. But the film is wonderfully cast, and once Gatsby and Daisy’s romance takes center stage to ground and center the director’s manic inclinations, the film surprisingly and improbably begins to work. (Available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video.)

What Maisie Knew

Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End) update the Henry James novel into a modern tale of divorce and bad parenting, telling the story entirely from the perspective of young Maisie (Aprile), so the big fights are only overheard, and the action must be pieced together by the viewer (just as they are by the protagonist). Few films have ever captured the strangeness of that experience quite so effectively, from the shuffling and sniping and spending to the weird interrogations about new girlfriends. Doesn’t quite hold as narrative (the second act stacks the deck too high), but nonetheless a deeply evocative experience for children of divorce. (Available for purchase or rental on Amazon Instant Video.)

Jayne Mansfield’s Car

Billy Bob Thornton made a memorable directorial debut back in 1996 with Sling Blade, but the two films that followed (2000’s All the Pretty Horses and 2001’s Daddy and Them) were such unhappy experiences, and were so thoroughly mishandled by studio execs, that he swore off directing altogether — until now. Jayne Mansfield’s Car not only marks Thornton’s return to the director’s chair; it also re-teams him with co-writer Thom Epperson, with whom he collaborated on One False Move and A Family Thing, among others. It’s a big, shambling ensemble piece, and isn’t the most even-keeled movie-watching experience. But his modest, unobtrusive style and keen ear for dialogue ultimately carry this evocative and engaging film. (Available Tuesday on iTunes.)

Europa Report

Europa One, we are told early in Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report, was “the first attempt to send men and women into deep space,” and their story can now be told via “thousands of hours of recently declassified footage.” Don’t worry: this isn’t another dull found-footage-in-space pic, á la Apollo 18. Like the recent (and effective) The Bay, Europa Report is faux-documentary rather than merely found footage, its jazzy cutting latching on to a clean structure that hopscotches through the chronology of events and economically disperses its secrets. This is brainy, quiet science fiction, in which the slowly mounting intensity and accumulating sense of doom are more bracing than the special effects. (Available for rental on Amazon Instant Video.)

The Rundown

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Pain and Gain is available on demand this week, and who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did. But by coincidence, Netflix Instant just added what remains the wrestler-turned-actor’s most enjoyable film, and his most engaging performance: he’s charismatic, convincing, and shows a knack for comedy, proving as comfortable in his dialogue scenes as he is in his (numerous) fistfights. In supporting roles, Seann William Scott is adequate, Rosario Dawson is adorable, and Christopher Walken is, well, Christopher Walken; his “Tooth Fairy” bit will please fans of his wild monologues, though I still cherish the way he unleashes his diabolical villainous laugh before growling, “Lock up the town!” (Streaming on Netflix.)

Greenberg

Fresh from the triumph of Frances Ha , Netflix has added the first collaboration between director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, the smart, tricky tale of a New York misanthrope (Ben Stiller) on an ill-advised trip to California. It’s not an easy film — Greenberg is not a loveable loner, nor an amusing malcontent. He’s got real problems, and they manifest themselves in ways that are not easy to get past. But Stiller and Baumbach somehow make the character play, and Gerwig is a wonder; there’s a scene about two-thirds of the way through that finds her alone in her studio apartment, sloppily half-dressed and more than half-drunk, singing along uproariously to Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and taking a phone call from Roger. In about three minutes, she does a full range of emotions, and barely breaks a sweat. It’s a star-making performance, and a richly rewarding film. (Streaming on Netflix.)

Memento

Also back on Netflix Instant this week is Christopher Nolan’s 2000 breakthrough film, a gloriously intelligent wind-up toy of a movie that pulses with the excitement of a filmmaker getting away with something, and knowing it. The acting is tricky but terrific, the screenplay is giddily smart, and Nolan’s direction gives the movie the feel of modern noir without any of the obvious visual cues (most of the film is in color — and bright daylight, for that matter). Beloved upon its release, and aging quite nicely. (Streaming on Netflix.)

Samsara

Director Ron Fricke’s long-awaited follow-up to the gorgeous 1992 documentary Baraka is, like its predecessor, not a standard documentary: there are no talking heads, no voice-overs, and no explicitly stated themes. Fricke tells his stories in breathtaking images and stirring music, and they encompass nothing less than the entirety of the human experience. Shot on 65mm film over the course of five years in 25 countries, the images (as expected) are astonishing, capturing the peculiar beauty of landscapes, villages, skylines, factories, and all matters of visual interest in between. Unique, beautiful, and frequently awe-inspiring. (Streaming on Netflix.)