Welcome to Flavorwire’s streaming movie guide, in which we help you sift through the scores of movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and other services to find the best of the recently available, freshly relevant, or soon to expire. This week, we’ve got new films from Chris Rock, Julie Delpy, Spike Lee, and the Duplass brothers, plus a treasure trove of documentaries and one of last year’s scariest flicks. Check them all out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
This anthology of “found footage” horror, from a crew of indie directors including Ti West (The House of the Dead) and Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs), is clever and smart and very, very scary. But there’s also some absorbing things happening in it contextually: its shifting perspectives toy with our notions of representation and identification, and the first-person camerawork makes the traditional horror movie marriage of violence and sexuality all the more prominent, and unnerving. A rare scary movie that gets both under your skin and into your head.
Lauren Greenfield’s sharp and perceptive documentary is about as clear-eyed a portrait of the “one percent” as you’re likely to come across. Her subjects are David Seigel, the ridiculously wealthy CEO of Westgate Resorts, and his wife Jackie; the focus is initially on the construction of their new home, the largest single-family house in the country, but that project and their extravagant lifestyle is upended by the financial crisis. This “riches to rags” story is fascinating, infuriating, and enormously telling; few election-year films were more enlightening or timely.
Director David France looks at the inception and impact of militant AIDS treatment advocacy in this thorough, evocative, and powerful documentary. In tracing the roots of ACT UP and TAG, and following those organizations from early actions to policy impact, France tells an important and often overlooked story; he masterfully conveys the urgency of those early, seemingly hopeless (and helpless) years, and expertly culls from miles of archival footage to simultaneously educated, anger, and inspire.
Through streaming on Netflix is a vastly inferior experience to seeing it in its intended 3D (yes, this is one of the rare instance where we not only tolerate the format, but endorse it), Wim Wenders’ documentary/performance hybrid maintains much of its punch and beauty nonetheless. The subject is Pina Bausch, the great German modern dance performer and choreographer, but we don’t learn all that much about her, strictly speaking; Wenders is light on dates and personal info. Instead, her dances and dancers speak for her, the work presented in a manner that is exciting and innovative, the camera less a recorder than an active participant. Powerful, intelligent, and (above all else) aesthetically astonishing.
Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris was one the past decade’s unexpected delights, a film that seemed a lightweight riff on her indelible Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and instead established her as a uniquely dizzy comic voice. This 2012 follow-up doesn’t quite match its predecessor — we grow tired of the familial bickering at its center before Delpy does — but its quotable dialogue and prickly sensibility confirm Delpy as a disarming stylist, and her off-beat chemistry with Chris Rock (turning in one of his most relaxed and enjoyable performances to date) is a treat.
The Duplass Brothers, who charmed us so thoroughly last spring with Jeff, Who Lives at Home (itself newly streaming on Netflix), followed it up with a leftover from their micro-budget days: this tricky familial comedy/drama, also concerned with the complicated dynamics of adult brothers. Childhood rivalries and long-held resentments are aired with predictably funny and awkward aplomb, but the filmmakers also get considerable dramatic mileage out of the fragility of marital relations. As with the best of the Duplasses’ work, it’s funny on the surface, and more than a little painful underneath.
Like much of Spike Lee’s fiction filmmaking of late (not his documentaries, though — he’s on a hot streak there), Red Hook Summer is deeply problematic: burdened with reams of didactic dialogue, anchored by a flat and forgettable performance by child actor Jules Brown, and structurally wobbly (this viewer thought its third act turn worked, but I sure seem to be in the minority on that one). That said, even Lee’s weakest films are at least worth a watch; they’re never short on ambition, nerve, or technical prowess, and the centerpiece performance by the great Clarke Peters (aka The Wire’s Lester Freamon) is a real piece of work.
Journalist Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower) and documentarian Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) team for this thoughtful examination of post-9/11 America, which merges performance footage of Wright’s off-Broadway show with documentary elements of the writer at work, and the world he’s investigating. The writer, a thoughtful and passionate Oklahoman, tells some shocking stories, and Gibney adopts a loose, casual approach (the organization is topical rather than chronological) that doesn’t undercut the urgency of the subject matter. My Trip was released in 2010, before the raid on Abbottabad which changed the conversation on Al-Qaeda, but it still offers much to consider, and contemplate, and mourn.
Boaz Yakin’s 1994 drama remains an undiscovered gem, its original release muddled by moviegoer exhaustion with so-called “hood movies,” and somewhat botched by Miramax, presumably distracted by the upcoming release of Pulp Fiction (which shares not only Fresh’s producer Lawrence Bender, but co-star Samuel L. Jackson). But the film is less Menace II Society than 400 Blows — with a shot of Searching for Bobby Fischer for extra flavor, courtesy of Jackson’s powerful turn as the protagonist’s chess-playing father. And the film’s draw these days may well be the scorching work of Giancarlo Esposito as the neighborhood gangster, a performance 180 degrees from Gus Fring, but still heightened by the skilled actor’s scary intensity.
Confession: though the trailers for this one blew our minds last year, we haven’t seen it just yet. But who’re we kidding; it’s the story of Nazis returning to earth in 2018 after fleeing to the moon following their defeat in 1945. You really think we’re not gonna get around to watching that one eventually?
That’s what we’re watching this week — what about you? Leave your own streaming recommendations in the comments!