Netflicked: Netflix Instant, July 19-26

Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:08 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Netflicked: Netflix Instant, July 19-26

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, we'll be here every Tuesday to update you on the latest titles available for instant-watching, as well as bringing attention some gems and even some enjoyable calamities out there in the instantly watchable wilds.

After a brief hiatus necessitated by IAR's Comic-Con International coverage, our weekly guide to Netflix Instant is back and ready to bring you up to speed on what's streaming.

MOVIES

For his first adaptation of existing material, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan took on the much-loved Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.  As a film, The Last Airbender is a shambling, exposition-loaded, tone-deaf exercise that is nonetheless of interest to bad movie aficionados and anyone wondering how not to adapt to a dense property.

Sometimes, Oscar-winning actors find themselves in thriller films that could have just as well have been handled by any model-turned-aspiring actress.  Such is the case with The Resident, starring Hilary Swank as a woman who is slowly but surely terrorized in her new apartment.  Christopher Lee and Jeffrey Dean Morgan also show up inexplicably. 

A happily low-budget, cleverly cheesy cult movie, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension will delight many viewers and perplex plenty of others.  Peter Weller stars as the title character, a rock star, surgeon, and irrepressible adventurer who, along with his band The Hong Kong Cavaliers, has no issue battling aliens from another dimension.  With its unique tone and performances from Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, John Lithgow, and Ellen Barkin, you'll wish the promised sequel, Buckaroo Banzai vs the World Crime League, had actually gotten made.

An inspiration boxing film that avoids the cliches of the subgenre, The Fighter isn't simply a rock-solid sports movie, it's drama based on a true story that transcends its the genre with spot-on direction from David O. Russell that captures the texture of Lowell, Massachusetts.  Christian Bale finally won a well-deserved Oscar for his performance as Dicky Ecklund and Melissa Leo won for her role as Alice Ward, as well, but across the board, the acting is excellent, including leads Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams.  On top of all that, it'll have you rocking an overblown Massachusetts accent for a few days.

Most alien invasion films spend their big visual effects sequences depicting the military fruitlessly throwing munitions at technologically-advanced extraterrestrials, but Skyline takes the perspective of a group of young people trapped in the middle of LA during an apocalyptic invasion.  VFX veterans Colin Strause and Greg Strause know how to produce a pretty effect or two.

TELEVISION SERIES

If Family Guy and The Cleveland Show cannot sate your thirst for the animated comedic stylings of Seth MacFarlane, then American Dad! will be a welcome addition to your animation diet.  The show focuses on Stan Smith, a tumorously-jawed CIA agent trying to balance the needs of his family and his patriotism.  That's just a setup for MacFarlane's digressive, allusion-heavy style of funny, though.

Frequently cited at the finest comedic series of all time, and even more frequently cited as the very best of British comedy, it would be very much worth your while to at least give Fawlty Towers a try.  The Complete Set, consisting of twelve episodes over two seasons, is streaming, affording the full story of Basil Fawlty, the farce-prone proprietor of a hotel that is never quite up to snuff.  One of those series that is not simply perfect, but that has hugely influenced so many subsequent comedic minds.

ON THE WAY OUT

The sexy swords-and-sandals prequel series from Starz, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Thursday, July 28th.

David Fincher's adaptation of Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ages backwards into a little baby on Saturday, July 30th.

Goldie and Slim (Max Julien and Richard Pryor) strut the streets of Oakland in The Mack, expiring on Saturday, July 30th.

A whole mess of films cease steaming on Sunday, July 31st, including:

The funny, affecting, and always-fun About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, and Toni Collette.

Darren Aronofsky's trippy, beautiful mediation on death, The Fountain.

Croupier, the slick crime film that made Clive Owen a big deal.

Matt Damon throwing down action-style for the first time in The Bourne Identity.

Oliver Stone's sledgehammer-subtle Wall Street.

Angelic navel-gazer with a Hemingway fixation City of Angels.

Federico Fellini's beautiful locus classicus La Dolce Vita.

The Michael Chabon adaptation Wonder Boys, with Michel Douglas, Tobey Maguire, and Robert Downey Jr.

Swingers, the Jon Favreau-Vince Vaughn-Doug Liman joint that continues to be oh-so quotable.

Unflinching look at Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen's addiction Sid & Nancy (Go, Gary Oldman, go!).

Geoffrey Rush as the legendarily depraved Marquis de Sade in Quills.

Don Coscarelli's much-loved franchise-starting horror flick Phantasm.

DOC OF THE WEEK

Everybody has an opinion about Roman Polanski, but not because he's the director behind Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, Frantic, The Pianist, The Ghost Writer, and Repulsion, but for his 1977 arrest for statutory rape, the subsequent trial, and his eventual flight from the United States, to which he's never returned.  There's a simple narrative around all of this, one that was almost immediately present and has only grown more streamlined over the decades, the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired lays out the complexities of the media-saturated trial, as well as Polanski's life and personality.  Marina Zenovich's film does not endeavor to exonerate Polanski, to to portray the events outside of the reductive lens through which they've been viewed for decades now.

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