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. It’s a big weekend for crashing on the couch and clearing out your Netflix queue, so for the occasion, we’ve got great stuff from Ryan Gosling, Daniel Craig, Steve Martin, Kristen Bell, John Candy, Judi Dench, Jeff Garlin, Michael Cera, Kristen Scott-Thomas, John Cusack, Frank Langella, and more. Check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
A day late, sure, but that’s what’s great about Planes, Trains: it’s set on Thanksgiving, so it’s technically a Thanksgiving movie, but it’s so heart-warming and fall-down funny, you can watch it pretty much any day of the year. And if you’re in the midst of your holiday travel nightmare, there’s certainly something to relate to here—if nothing else, live vicariously through Steve Martin’s notorious encounter with the rental car lady (above). (Streaming free for Amazon Prime members.)
The reunion of Drive star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn made for, to put it mildly, a divisive picture; critics and audiences from Cannes to Columbus walked out in hordes, put off by its bananas narrative and extreme violence. Make no mistake, Only God Forgives is a mess, an overly stylized and brutally grisly mood piece with something to alienate everyone. It’s also absolutely worth seeing, proudly challenging its viewers to deal with something this violent, this inexplicable, and this darkly funny all at once.
Realizing the chances are fairly slim that if you’ve probably already seen Skyfall if you have any interest in doing so, its recent addition to Netflix Instant is a prime opportunity to revisit this muscular entry in the Bond franchise, with Daniel Craig in fine form, Judi Dench with more to do than usual, Javier Bardem having a great time as a Bond villain. Director Sam Mendes brings the picture his own fierce intelligence and knowing wit, but is smart enough to know not to go muckety-mucking about with the template. The result is one of the most purely entertaining Bond movies yet.
Jake Schreier’s five-minutes-into-the-future comedy/drama tells the irresistible story of a former jewel thief with a touch of Alzheimer’s who trains his robot butler to help him come out of retirement. The invaluable Frank Langella grounds the tale—which could have been played for goofy, broad laughs—masterfully, and puts across the buddy dynamic with ease (aided greatly by Peter Sarsgaard’s wonderful voice performance as the robot). Sweet, funny, and charming.
Sebastian Silva put this one together in two weeks when his thriller Magic Magic (which also stars Michael Cera) went on hold; the actors worked from an outline, improvising their dialogue, and the picture is better for it. It’s got an off-the-cuff feel and on-the-fly wit, which helps distract from the meager plot (basically, a bunch of guys and a girl go “to the north” for a mescaline trip). It’s droll and strange, and the audience isn’t always in the on the gag, but it arrives, strangely enough, at a place of genuine warmth and humanity.
Curb Your Enthusiasm and Goldbergs co-star Jeff Garlin helms his second feature film, starring, directing, and writing (to a degree; it’s mostly improvised, using the Curb methodology) this comedy about the insane parents of Little League baseball players. It’s a shambling, low-key charmer, coasting off Garlin’s considerable charm and the improvisational gifts of a terrific cast, including Bob Odenkirk, Fred Willard, Kerri Kenney-Silver, and J.B. Smoove.
Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez’s bracing documentary (from executive producer Denis Leary) spends a year with members of Engine Company No. 50 on Detroit’s crime-ridden east side, deftly rotating personal stories and private moments with remarkable on-the-fly footage of the company on the job. That footage is astonishing; their cameras get up close to the action, sometimes from within the helmets of the firefighters themselves, resulting in sequences visceral and immediate. In the process, they capture a story of pride in the face of hopelessness, bonding in the face of troubles, and exhilaration in the face of certain death.
TV scribe Liz Garcia’s directorial debut veers easily towards pat construction and obvious cues (particularly with regards to the copious alt/pop college radio soundtrack songs). But it’s an insightful character study, focusing on a pushing-30 New Yorker (Kristen Bell) who flees her premature malaise in the city to return home, resume her old job, and act like a compulsive teenager—complete with a reckless sexual relationship with a teenage boy. Bell turns in a good, heartfelt, true performance, wearing the wounds or premature disappointment well, and Garcia vividly pinpoints how such a meltdown would make her a “bad influence” on her seemingly stable old friends (particularly BFF Mamie Gummer, very good). The Lifeguard meanders a bit (the subplot with Gummer’s husband is a big dud), but it’s got a quiet, low-key, hanging-out vibe, and is a rare film that manages to capture, at least briefly, Bell’s considerable gifts.
This is one that pops on and off Netflix Instant fairly frequently, but it’s one of those films that’s always worth a return visit. Writer/director Cameron Crowe captures the all-bets-are-off intensity of first love (and first heartbreak) with a vividness that few other pictures have managed, and while Lloyd and his boombox have become the film’s most iconic cultural image, I always prefer to think of Corey and her guitar, doing her marathon of songs about Joe. No, never, no never, no never, don’t you ever think it!
If you’re still celebrating MST3K ’s 25th birthday at your house (and we are at mine! Is that weird?), you’ll be happy to know that Netflix just added a batch of great episodes: Devil Fish, Werewolf, The Beginning of the End, Gamera vs. Guiron , and, best of all, this fifth season classic, in which Joel and the ‘bots take apart a turgid 1944 exploitation melodrama about a juvenile delinquent and the parents who ruined him. Also includes The Truck Farmer, one of their oddest (and funniest) short films.