Welcome back streamers. We trust you had a good July 4th weekend and the hangover has finally subsided. We also assume you’ve gotten over the overlong, tonal headache that was “The Lone Ranger,” and now you’re debating if you should do the same with “Pacific Rim” or “Grown Ups 2.” Both reviews suggest that you should just stay home, which is good for us because we have lots of suggestions for you streaming this weekend. We’ve got an alternate Guillermo del Toro movie you could watch and instead of witnessing Adam Sandler fart on Salma Hayek, you could revisit arguably his best movie, thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson. We’ve also got a Michael Cera indie for you that’s hitting both theaters and VOD this weekend (but hey, maybe you can just watch it out of the comfort of your own home if it’s not playing in your town) and some classic gems, including some jewels from the Criterion archive not yet released on DVD. OK, let’s get to it.
“Hard Times” (1975)
What It’s About: A depression era street fighter (Charles Bronson) joins with a shady promoter (James Coburn) of no-holds-barred street boxing bouts in New Orleans.
Why You Should Stream It: For one because it’s the debut film of director Walter Hill (“The Warriors,” “Driver,” “48 Hrs”), who also wrote the screenplay (Hill, was also a hell of a writer penning scripts for “The Getaway,” the underrated Paul Newman flick, “The Drowning Pool,” and Ridley Scott‘s first “Alien” movie). Secondly, it’s a little gem of a forgotten movie that hasn’t been available on DVD for years (though yes, like anything, bootlegs and crappy skeletal versions do exist). Lastly, it’s a pretty terrific, simple, but effective movie about a mysterious drifter who ghosts into town and then quickly ghosts out. But not before making a lot of money for James Coburn’s shifty, money-grubbing manager and well, kind of making some friends in the process. Co-starring Jill Ireland as an object of affection, excellent character actor Strother Martin as a fight associate that joins the team and Michael McGuire as a wealthy businessman and rival, like many of Hill’s best screenplays, not a lot of dialogue is necessary. At least not from the film’s mostly taciturn lead, Charles Bronson, who puts in a confident and cool, but not cocky performance that really sells this mystery drifter who suddenly appears on the scene and takes out all the major players. If you’re at all interested in Hill’s classics, this one is required viewing.
Where It’s Available: iTunes, AmazonInstant, and the entire thing for free on Crackle.
“Orange Is The New Black” (2013)
What It’s About: Based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, Taylor Schilling stars as Piper Chapman, a young woman who winds up in prison after getting caught carrying a suitcase of drug money for her lover and drug smuggler, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). Jason Biggs (remember him?) is also on board, playing the role of Larry, Piper’s fiancé who is waiting for her on the outside.
Why You Should Stream It: Well, for all the shows Netflix has debuted this year, it’s the first one to get renewed before the a single episode has aired. Secondly, if you’re a fan of “Weeds” you should might be pleased to know that producer Jenji Kohan is also behind this one, and thirdly, the trailer promises a pretty fascinating blend of comedy and drama that us intrigued to at least stream a couple of episodes this weekend, to test the waters. But don’t just take our word for it, reviews have mostly been ecstatic. Huffington Post called it “one of the best new programs of the year,” San Franciso Chronicle said it’s “a new definition of television excellence” with The Hollywood Reporter noting “it constantly offers more than you expect,” with Entertainment Weekly concluding: “It’s very funny and occasionally quite moving, with a crackerjack cast and provocative insights into the way that race and power and magical chickens function in the penal system.” It’s certainly one of the more original concepts to the the small screen this summer and it might be the perfect thing to escape into an air-conditioned room with for a few hours.
Where It’s Available: Netflix
“Crystal Fairy” (2013)
What It’s About: A young, obnoxious American named Jamie (Michael Cera) travels to Chile, and joins a couple of friends on a quest to trip balls on the fabled hallucinogen known as the San Pedro cactus. But his journey is interrupted by the titular free spirit Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman), who tags along for the ride, bringing her own unique, Earthly charms with her.
Why You Should Stream It: For anyone who thinks that Michael Cera can only play riffs on George Micheal Bluth, he’s working hard to turn that idea around, and doing so with the help of “The Maid” director Sebastian Silva, with whom he’s collaborated on two projects. Next month will perhaps see the biggest metamorphosis of Cera when he stars in the Silva-directed thriller “Magic Magic,” which is unfortunately going straight-to-DVD. But coming ahead of that is his first collaboration with the filmmaker, “Crystal Fairy,” and it finds the actor morphing his trademark awkwardness into something a bit more unsympathetic and darker than we’re used to seeing. But real highlight of the film might just be Hoffman, whose very open (and sometimes very naked) turn had many talking out of Sundance. It’s a tough part, one that requires her to appear a bit unflattering (let’s just say she earns the nickname Crystal Hairy) but the actress reportedly takes it on with gusto, lead the film to some surprisingly poignant places. Essentially, the film presents some ambitious young actors, rolling the dice with an arthouse filmmaker on a zany concept and seeing how it all plays out, and that should be enough to get you to click.
Where It’s Available: TMC VOD
What’s It About: In the not-too-distant future a horrible disease is preying upon New York City’s children. An entomologist (Mira Sorvino, at the height of her cuteness) and her CDC agent boyfriend (Jeremy Northam) create a genetic hybrid called the Judas Breed, a crabby-looking bug thingee, that’s sent out to kill the cockroaches that are distributing the disease. These abominations were supposed to die off in three months, but three years later they’re discovered in the subways of Manhattan. And what’s more – they’ve evolved.
Why You Should Stream It: This was Guillermo del Toro‘s first studio movie, which didn’t exactly have the easiest time getting to the big screen (it started off as a short that was part of an anthology, at one point Steven Soderbergh volunteered a completely new script that was rejected outright). Still, all the hallmarks of a del Toro movie are present and accounted for — lots of insect imagery, underground tunnels, moody lighting, Catholic iconography, things floating in jars, a thematic concern with birth and pregnancy. The movie is clearly creatively compromised, even in its elongated “director’s cut” form — long shots that were clearly meant to be single takes are sabotaged by early fades, clumsy voiceover work coveys plot points that were supposed to be revealed by actual dialogue, and a subplot involving an immigrant shoeshiner and his young, autistic son, is never developed adequately. “Mimic” might not be full tilt del Toro (for that, head to the theaters this weekend for “Pacific Rim“), but it’s still a whole lot of fun and scarier than we remember, full of moody, suspenseful set pieces, many set in the uncomfortably claustrophobic tunnels and subways beneath New York City. The monster, too, when finally revealed, is pretty ingenious — a giant bug that camouflages itself like a man in a trenchcoat (it’s pretty cool). It’s not exactly a lost treasure but it’s still an above average midnight movie, worth it for some occasionally stunning camerawork, a killer cast that also includes a fresh faced (but still grumpy) Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, and F. Murray Abraham, in the pivotal sci-fi/horror role as the older skeptic who knew that the genetic creations were a bad idea from the very beginning. If you have a fear of bugs, though, you might want to sit this one out if you ever plan on sleeping (or riding the subway) again.
Where It’s Available: Netflix, HuluPlus, iTunes
“Punch-Drunk Love” (2002)
What’s It About: Barry (Adam Sandler) runs a company that sells novelty plungers. He rescues a harmonium from the middle of the street. He starts redeeming frequent flyer coupons he discovers on the back of cups of pudding. He gets embroiled in a scam by criminals who run a phone sex line he frequently calls. He falls in love with Lena (Emily Watson). He goes to Hawaii. That is “Punch-Drunk Love.”
Why You Should Watch It: After his overlong, self-serious (and completely brilliant) “Magnolia,” director Paul Thomas Anderson vowed to make a short, small scale movie starring Adam Sandler. And he did just that. It’s interesting, on the eve of “Grown Ups 2,” to think of Adam Sandler taking on a project as risky and weird as “Punch-Drunk Love,” and equally fascinating to think of mainstream North American audiences, with only a vague understanding of what the movie was, hitting the multiplexes to see “the new Adam Sandler” movie and having to sit through this. (It’s probably the only movie in history to be influenced by Antonioni, “The Waterboy,” and the Hawaii episode of “The Brady Bunch.”) “Punch-Drunk Love” has a singular oddball charm and a surprising emotional resonance for a movie that is so outrageously weird (it won PTA the Best Director prize at Cannes that year). In a lot of ways it’s one of PTA’s very best films – a buoyant, fizzy, beautiful little movie about the redemptive power of love. And also pudding.
Where It’s Available: Netflix, iTunes
Criterion Hulu Plus Pick: We’ve been saying it for a while now. We like Criterion a lot, but what we love is finding hard to find, not-readily-available-on-DVD movies. And so the Criterion hub on Hulu Plus is pretty awesome. Their archive has approximately some 225 movies that will eventually come out on the Criterion Collection on DVD, but currently, it’s just a rather incredible, early sneak peek treasure trove of what’s to come. Each week we single out a film that we think you should see.
Various David Lynch Shorts
What Are They About: Before David Lynch terrified us all with “Eraserhead” he studied at the American Film Institute Conservatory alongside people like Terrence Malick. Many of these shorts were done at that time. “Six Men Getting Sick” is an experimental short that features six figures grotesquely becoming sick with stomachs bleeding out and their heads catching fire (Jack Fisk would help Lynch makes casts of the head based on Lynch’s own visage). “The Alphabet” is another creepy animated short evincing a disturbing expression of childhood and aging. “The Amputee” Version 1 and 2” were made while Eraserhead was reportedly in financial limbo. It’s also disturbing and creepy (natch) and features a woman reading from a letter she is writing while a nurse cleans out her bloody, gruesome leg stumps. There’s six in total (“The Grandmother,” “Premonition Following An Evil Deed” are the other two) and yes, they’re all pretty damn weird, but a must watch.
Why You Should Stream It: Because it’s David Lynch, dummy. Yes, many of these are available on a now out-of-print “Eraserhead” Blu-Ray or the U.K “Wild At Heart” Blu-Ray, but in case you don’t happen to have them, they’re all up there for the pickings. Of course you could wait until Criterion puts them out either on the coming-in-the-near-future “Eraserhead” DVD, but why wait?
Where It’s Available: HuluPlus
Also Available to Stream
Despite not making our top five picks, the following films are certainly still worthy of your movie-loving attention, and are newly available via various streaming services. Links to our reviews are provided where available.
“Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor”
“Political Animals Season One”