Flavorwire’s Guide to Movies You Need to Stream This Week(end)

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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. We normally run this feature on Mondays, but figured it might be more helpful to you, the reader, in advance of the long Labor Day weekend. In the spirit of the holiday, we’ve picked out a few work-related titles, along with great stuff from Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Viggo Mortensen, Zooey Deschanel, Charlize Theron, Mike Birbiglia, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Robert Duvall, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.

9 to 5

Our Labor Day movie marathon begins where it must: with this 1980 workplace comedy from writer/director Colin Higgins (Harold and Maude). Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton play a trio of office workers harassed by their vile boss (Dabney Coleman) — until they turn the tables. It’s broad, goofy comedy, sure (enjoy those marijuana-inspired fantasy sequences), but with a sly feminist twist. (Streaming on Netflix Instant)

Harlan County, USA

The great Barbara Kopple (Shut Up and Sing; American Dream) won the 1977 Academy Award for Best Documentary for this riveting, groundbreaking, and frequently frightening look at the 1973 strike of 180 coal miners in southeast Kentucky. Kopple initially adopts a fly on the wall approach, listening and observing, but her cameras ultimately become a part of the story (and memorably, a part of the scuffles). No-nonsense documentary filmmaking at its best. (Streaming free, with ads, on Hulu)

Roger & Me

Long before he would become the preferred object of right-wing wrath, Michael Moore was just an unemployed writer from Michigan who decided to make a movie. His subject: the devastation wrecked upon his beloved hometown of Flint, Michigan by General Motors, which spent much of the high-profit go-go 80’s shutting down American factories, leaving thousands of American workers jobless while the company took advantage of cheap labor opportunities in Mexico. The resulting film is angry, pained, cynical, and often hilarious; nearly a quarter-century later, this remains his most heartfelt and personal film and a valuable rejoinder to Reagan hagiography. (Available for rental or purchase on iTunes and Amazon)

Office Space

There is no one key to comedy: some movies are funny because they’re wild and outrageous, some because they unexpectedly combine incongruent elements, some because they have a lot of sex jokes. And some are funny because they are familiar, filled with recognizable elements that we can all relate to. Like the way a simple mistake is pointed out to you by five different people in your office. Or how there’s always some idiot going on about “a case of the Mondays.” Or how shared printers never work. Or the discomfort of forced social interaction at office birthday parties. For example. (Available for rental or purchase on iTunes and Amazon)

Josh Johnson’s documentary on the rise, fall, and improbable return of VHS is a nostalgia-laced valentine for anyone with deep-seated feelings about tape glitches, pan and scan, made-for-video action flicks, and movie bootlegging—in other words, it’s catnip for guys like me. But it’s not just a Buzzfeed-style “Hey, remember this?” movie; Johnson and his many interview subjects (and if there’s a complaint to be made, it’s about the reliance on talking heads, knowledgeable though they may be) walk through the peculiar joy of discovering an inexplicable title, the beauty of painted box art, the inherent democratization of the video store, the use of home video as poorman’s film school, and what exactly the slow fade of physical media means. It’s good history (the format wars, the advent of sell-through, and the explosion of VHS porn are all covered) and quirky character study (via the VHS collectors and the oddballs who make them) all at once, and the idea of “Be Kind, Rewind” as a life philosophy is sort of wonderful. (Ironically, it’s not currently available in physical form; available for rental on iTunes)

Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

Stand-up comic and This American Life fave Mike Birbiglia turned his last off-Broadway show, Sleepwalk with Me, into a wonderful feature film, and plans are afoot to do the same with this follow-up. But in the meantime, Netflix got exclusive rights to this performance film, in which the comedian spins the tale of his various romantic entanglements and errors, centered (strangely but successfully) around another near-death experience. Warm, cleverly constructed, and endlessly funny. (Streaming on Netflix Instant)

The Road

John Hillcoat’s 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s grim, brilliant 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner (newly streaming on Netflix) follows a widower and his young son through a post-apocalyptic wasteland sparsely populated by scavengers, cannibals, and other terrifying types. There’s no thrilling chases or action set pieces here, merely a man and boy trudging through a barely-intact civilization, trying to stay alive. It is, as some may warn, a bit of a “downer.” But Hillcoat (who also helmed The Proposition) refuses to soften the picture’s rough edges, to his — and the film’s — ultimate credit. (Streaming on Netflix Instant)

Our Idiot Brother

You couldn’t ask for a better ensemble cast for this family comedy: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Steve Coogan, Kathryn Hahn, and so on. Any movie packing that kind of heat is bound to disappoint if it doesn’t deliver a laugh a minute, and to be fair, Our Idiot Brother doesn’t. But if you adjust your expectations a bit, it’s a satisfying little movie—sweet and fizzy, full of charming character turns and amusing moments. (Streaming on Netflix Instant)

The Other F-Word

Andrea Blaugrund helms this entertaining and thoughtful documentary that looks at a handful of musicians — including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ron Reyes from Black Flag, Lars Frederiksen from Rancid, Art Alexakis from Everclear, and Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 — who are attempting to intermingle two seemingly incongruent ethos: punk rock and responsible fatherhood. Her style is nimble but rarely shallow, and her subjects are well-chosen. All seem to have discovered that settling down and having a family may fly in the face of the common definition of “punk,” but being responsible for other people is going to mellow a person out. Not all of them “grew up,” but they all matured; the difference is subtle, but you understand it better by this charming film’s end. (Streaming on Netflix Instant)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Pod People

There’s something of a revolving-door policy for Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes over at Netflix — and yes, it’s a TV show, but I justify including it in the streaming movie guide because each episode includes a movie, and you can’t convince me otherwise. But just in time for the big holiday weekend, Netflix has added (or re-added; I can’t keep track) five episodes: Gamera, Soultaker, The Final Sacrifice , The Touch of Satan , and, best of all, this bargain-basement 1983 Franco/Spanish E.T. rip-off. Its most memorable quote is the best possible description of the film itself: “It stinks!” But with the commentary of Joel and the ‘bots, what is unwatchable becomes endlessly entertaining. (Streaming on Netflix Instant)