Netflicked: Netflix Instant, March 9-15

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 12:36 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Netflicked: Netflix Instant, March 9-15

Netflix's streaming Watch Instantly service is fast becoming America's favorite way to watch movies.  The library of available titles is so vast and mutable that you, the avid instant watcher, could no doubt use a guide as you navigate the streaming frontier.  Luckily for you, I'll be here every Tuesday to update you on the latest titles available for instant-watching, as well as bringing attention some gems out there in the instantly watchable wilds.





MOVIES

The multi-film collaboration between director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell found its most perfect expression with the 1982 remake The Thing.  A malicious shape-shifting alien terrorizes the small crew of a remote Antarctic research facility, as they increasingly succumb to paranoia and turn on one another.  Old school special effects give extraterrestrial grotesquery an actual sense of weight and mass missing from CGI creatures.

You've probably heard of Half Nelson because of Ryan Gosling's performance as a drug-addicted middle school teacher, but Shareeka Epps also does great work as a student who learns his secret.  Low key direction, solid acting, and music by Broken Social Scene make for a difficult but quietly moving film that nimbly hops over potential melodrama.

In the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer play idiotic members of a past-their-prime heavy metal band on tour.  Rob Reiner directs and plays fictitious documentarian Marty DiBergi, but the improvised style and cast would later become hallmarks Christopher Guest mockumentaries, including Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show.  Endlessly quotable; nowhere else will you hear the line, "We've got armadillos in our trousers."

Another comedy trio gets down and dirty in Mystery Team, a low budget comedy starring Derrick Comedy, aka, Donald Glover, DC Pierson, and Dominic Dierkes.  They play a group of oblivious Hardy Boys-style detectives tasked with identifying the murderer of a young girl's parents, and they do so with clever dialogue and unapologetic lunacy.

If you like manly titles, then The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest probably has your attention already.  The documentary, narrated by Liam Neeson, speculates as to whether mountaineer George Mallory was the first person to summit Mount Everest.  Contemporary climber Conrad Anker finds Mallory's body on the mountain 75 years after his death, and subsequently becomes obsessed with his endeavors.  Reenactments and modern footage of Anker form two intertwined stories, both of which offer insight into the drive of adventurers to climb the world's tallest mountain.


TEEVEE

Yet another slow week for streaming television series, but one noteworthy addition is definitely 'Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids'.  Three volumes of creator Bill Cosby's 1970's Saturday Morning cartoon are now available.  The quality of the animation isn't exactly stunning, but the episodes are fascinating little artifacts of value-based children's programming from almost forty years ago.

If you're a fan of the NPR radio series hosted by Ira Glass, you're guaranteed to enjoy the 6 episode second season of the 'This American Life' series, which aired on Showtime.  The show has the same deeply sympathetic perspective as its radio counterpart, and the documentary format has frequently transcendent result.  The final episode, John Smith, is particularly ambitious and perfectly executed.

Speaking of televised documentaries, the 10-part miniseries 'Carrier' follows the crew of the American aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz during a six month deployment to the Persian Gulf as part of the Iraq War.  The series takes no political stance, but explores the everyday lives of those on board.  Just ignore that Mel Gibson is an executive producer.


ON THE WAY OUT

Stop motion maestro Henry Selick's Roald Dahl adaptation James and the Giant Peach expires on Monday, March 21st.

Top Secret, the Jim Abrahams, Zucker Bros follow-up to Airplane!, will cease streaming on Wednesday, March 16th.

Ridley Scott's nautical coming of age/catastrophe film White Squall, starring Jeff Bridges, is off limits starting Saturday, March 19th.

All eight original Friday the 13th films, as well as the inexplicable Jason-in-space ninth entry Jason X, expire on Wednesday, March 16th.


DOC OF THE WEEK

With insightful, challenging films including Standard Operating Procedure and The Fog of War, Errol Morris is one of the very best documentarians around.  Arguably his best documentary, though, is 1988's The Thin Blue Line.  The film methodically tackles all the circumstantial evidence that sent an innocent man to death row for the murder of a cop in Texas.  In the process, Morris chronicles a series of deliberate and inadvertent miscarriages of justice in the trial and conviction of Randall Adams.  As a result of Morris' investigation, Adams was exonerated.  How many documentaries have managed to get innocent people out of prison?  I don't know exactly, but this is a damn good doc.

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