Netflicked: Netflix Instant, April 12-19

Tuesday, 19 April 2011 15:37 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Netflicked: Netflix Instant, April 12-19

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.

After the plethora of newly-available titles the last two weeks, this week saw only a handful of new additions to the streaming service, so this week will consist solely of picks that may not be new to Instant Watch, but are well worth your time nonetheless.

MOVIES

If you were puzzled as to all the hubbub around the passing of the late great Sidney Lumet, then drop what you're doing and watch Dog Day Afternoon, which stars Al Pacino and John Cazale as a pair of real-life attempted bank robbers who end up the central players in a media-circus hostage situation.  Seriously, make it a priority.

Feature animation gets no better than The Iron Giant, a deeply moving, gorgeously animated, well-told tale from Brad Bird, who subsequently directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille for Pixar. 

Long before he became on the biggest directors in history with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson was the independent New Zealand director who made funny, disgustingly over-the-top splatter flicks like Dead Alive, in which a rat-monkey bites leads to all manner of horrors.  Two words: zombie sex.  That's just a taste of the crazy contained the film.

Similarly, Christopher Nolan wasn't always the blockbuster auteur of The Dark Knight and Inception.  His first film, Following, was made at night and on weekends, and while it's undeniably low budget, you can see the themes and techniques that come to define his work in an early, raw form.  Once you're done with that, check out Insomnia, Nolan's first studio film and a taut, well done thriller about moral compromise.

Dustin Hoffman delivers a career-best performance as legendary comedian Lenny Bruce in Lenny.  The black and white film from director Bob Fosse captures the indignation, self-destruction, and profoundly insightful humor of Bruce without compromising the frequently unpleasant details of the man's character and choices.  Plus, there's Valerie Perrine, who you might remember as Miss Teschmacher in Richard Donner's Superman.

If all these examples of cinematic quality aren't your thing, there's always Battlefield Earth, an unmitigated disaster on almost every conceivable level.  The sheer ineptitude on display can actually be a snarky joy to watch, particularly if you're in the company of like-minded friends and ample alcohol on hand.

TELEVISION SERIES

If you're in the mood for some definitively 1990's teenage melodrama, look no further than My So-Called Life, the MTV series starring a young Claire Danes and pre-ridiculous haircuts Jared Leto.

Saturday Night Live has been on the air for a whopping 36 seasons, and you can see all the changes and contribute to that never-settled debate about whether or not the show is any good, and if not, when exactly it stopped being any good.

Speaking of sketch comedy from SNL producer Lorne Michaels, The Kids in the Hall are a Canadian troupe whose five-season series might get a little too surreal for your taste.  That said, they undoubtedly generated some classic bits and characters.

In the three season mystery series Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell is a high school student-turned serious gumshoe investigating the murder of her best friend.  Surprisingly smart and well written, with a good sense of humor, as well.

ON THE WAY OUT

Jean Pierre Jeunet's Amelie, starring the adorable Audrey Tatou, will no longer whimsily stream as of Thursday, April 21st.

Mel Gibson and Tina Turner square off in George Miller's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which expires on Friday, April 22nd.

A River Runs Through It, directed by Robert Redford, will expire on Thursday, April 21st.

Brian DePalma's Vietnam war drama Casualties of War, with Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn, stops streaming on Monday, April 25th.

DOC OF THE WEEK

Love the Beast is one of the weirdest documentaries I've ever seen, but not because it's deliberately strange or covers unconventional subject matter.  In fact, it's about a very conventional subject: a man's love for his car.  What makes Love the Beast strange is that it's directed by actor Eric Bana and is all about his love for his own Ford Falcon Coupe, a model known as 'The Beast'.  While exploring Australian automotive culture and Bana's lifelong friendships, the film chronicles the actor's 25 year relationship with his car, purchased when he was just 15 years old.  When Bana completes an intensive restoration to his muscle car and enters into a high profile race, Love the Beast feels most like a self-indulgent vanity project, which it undoubtedly is.  But it's also a ridiculously earnest and personal story that ends up going some unexpected places. 

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