FlixWorthy: The Runaways, Night Watch, And More
Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Yet again we're bringing you a handful of new or notable selections from Netflix's streaming catalogue. Some will be classics, some will be little-seen gems, some will be shows you might have missed, and some...some will be crap so awful they simply has to be seen to be believed. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.
Public Service Announcement: To any Farscape fans out there who have been bedeviled by the curious absence of season four from Netflix's streaming catalogue, it has finally become available. If that doesn't call for a celebratory Farscape marathon, I don't know what does.
(2010, Rated R, 107 min.)
Hollywood loves to tell stories about rock stars. Well, not just rock stars, but famous musicians of every stripe. Maybe it's because the combination of visuals and iconic songs make for arresting viewing. Maybe it's because the allure of glitz and fame appeals to us all. Maybe it's because these folks have a tendency to ferment themselves in a cocktail of assorted chemicals until something tragic happens. Regardless, if there's anything you'd expect Hollywood to get more excited about than a rock-star movie, it's a rock-star movie about an all-girl group so they can cast a couple of attractive, up-and-coming starlets and watch the box-office dollars pile up past their shoulder blades. The Runaways might not have proven the hit the producers might have hoped for, but it earned some good reviews and gave Kristen Stewart an excuse to get away from that pedophile vampire for a little while. The Runaways is the story of the infamous band of the same name, with Stewart in the role of Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as lead singer Cherie Currie.
Double-Feature It With...
(2001, Rated PG-13, 127 min., HD)
Baz Luhrman's hyperactive musical about True Love may be set in 1899 Paris, but it still sports a soundtrack of modern tunes spanning the gamut from David Bowie's "Heroes" to Queen's "The Show Must Go On." If you can make it through the insanity of the first 10 minutes, you'll probably love it. Worth watching just for its epic rendition of "Roxanne" by the Police.
(2005, Unrated, 114 min., HD)
Based on the first of a series of best-selling fantasy novels by Russian writer Sergei Luryanenko, Night Watch was kind of a big deal over there. So big that it broke their box-office records. While it never found the same level of success here in the States, it did introduce a lot of people to director Timur Bekmambetov, who then went on to direct Wanted and currently has a full slate of upcoming projects, including the Wanted sequel and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The movie introduces a world long divided between light and darkness, with the supernatural enforcers of the Night Watch tasked with keeping the bad guys in check (and opposed by their equal and opposite number, the Day Watch). As always seems to be the case, there's an ancient prophecy that promises the coming of a powerful figure who will throw a wrench in the works and decide the fate of the world, blah blah blah. The storyline itself isn't that unique, but the film is a wild visual ride that's well worth two hours of your time. The tone of the film is a little chaotic, likely having lost something in the translation, but there are so many cool ideas at work that it's easy to forgive that. Also, this version of the film has some of the coolest uses of subtitles I've ever seen. I know that sounds weird, but I don't want to spoil anything...just check it out.
Double-Feature It With:
(1961, Not Rated, 28 min.)
Unless you're an ardent film buff, you've probably never heard of this French short film, which is told through a series of still photos. It follows a man sent back from a post-apocalyptic future who falls in love with a modern woman and tries to keep from being yanked back to his time. Sound kind of familiar? It was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam's amazing time-travel mind-bender 12 Monkeys.
That '70s Show
(1998, TV-14, Eight seasons available, HD)
Who would have thought back in 1998 that the skinny kid would get cast as Venom, Fez would soon claim carnal knowledge of every young starlet in Hollywood, Jackie would someday venture below Natalie Portman's southern borders, and Kelso would end up married to Demi freaking Moore? It's been a long, strange trip for many of the cast members of That '70s Show, and given many of the show's running jokes, that's only appropriate. The show may have outstayed its welcome with a Topher-less final season, but unlike most of the onscreen fashions, That '70s Show has aged well. It traffics in time-worn sitcom tropes, but the cast is funny and have chemistry to spare. Sure, you could find this show in repeats pretty much any hour of the day, but why channel flip when you've got the entire run streaming instantly at your fingertips? It may not be high art (ahem), but it is comfort food. Like pot brownies.
Double-Feature It With:
3rd Rock from the Sun
(1996, TV-PG, Six seasons available)
While 3rd Rock from the Sun gave us Joseph Gordon-Levitt, That '70s Show gave us Mila Kunis. But That '70s Show also inflicted Ashton Kutcher upon us, whereas 3rd Rock's worst crime was keeping French Stewart employed for an extended period. Even considering my unhealthy fondness for Mila, that means I may have to give 3rd Rock the edge. Plus, they not only had a Shatner guest appearance, they also dropped a double-pronged "something on the wing" reference. Respect.
The Bride of Frankenstein
(1935, Not Rated, 74 min., HD)
Perhaps not the most famous, but arguably the best of the Universal monster classics, The Bride of Frankenstein explores what inevitably happens once a fellow achieves newfound consciousness and comes to term with his existence: he sets out trying to get laid. In addition to giving us a hairstyle that provided a visual punchline for Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein several decades later, Bride also introduced the world to Dr. Frankenstein's maniacal mentor, Dr. Pretorius. You've got Boris Karloff in his most iconic role, you've got Colin Clive chewing scenery as Frankenstein himself, and the whole thing unfolds under the watchful eye of director James Whale (whose own life was at least as interesting as his films: see Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters).
Double-Feature It With:
(1929, Not Rated, 80 min.)
Maybe it's because I just finished playing through Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, but I can't help pairing Frankenstein-ian antics with an equally infamous bloodsucker. While F.W. Murnau's silent horror classic was intended as an unofficial adaptation of Stoker's Dracula, they swapped around the names and details when they couldn't get the rights -- hence Count Dracula became Count Orlok. (Bonus: if you want to set up a movie marathon that blends fiction and reality, pair these two with the aforementioned Gods and Monsters and Shadow of the Vampire).
The Cosby Show
(1984, TV-G, Eight seasons available)
The Huxtables have been on my mind a lot lately thanks to the brilliance that is Community, and lo and behold, Netflix has gone and uploaded the entire eight-season run to their streaming catalogue. That's eight years of the ever-expanding Huxtable clan. Eight years of credits-dancing. Eight years of unforgettable sweaters. The impact of this show is undeniable, even aside from the pop-culture references that still crop up to this day. The show revived the flailing sit-com genre, dragged NBC out of the ratings dumpster, and helped pave the way for shows with predominantly African-American casts. Even more laudably, while the show acknowledged the cast's ethnicity, it rarely made an issue out of it. The Huxtables were just another family. While this seems like a gimme, it's all the more impressive when you consider how often TV and movies still grasp at easy stereotypes when portraying anyone who isn't WASP-y to a fault. All of which would make for interesting footnotes, but little else, if not for one other quality The Cosby Show possessed in spades: it was funny.
Double-Feature It With...
(2010, TV-MA, One season available, HD)
I'm kicking myself for not including this show in this column before now, but it does give me some small perverse joy to pair it with the wholesome Huxtables. If you didn't check out the new FX sitcom headlined by genius comic Louis C.K., you missed one of the real surprises of the year. The surprise wasn't that it was often flat-out hilarious...that was a given. But what was a surprise was just how starkly real it got. From an honest and unflinching conversation about homophobia amongst friends, to a porch-stoop heart-to-heart between two middle-aged men whose best years have passed them by, Louie deserves to be seen by everybody. Yes, even you in the corner. (Read Steve West's smart analysis of the show right here.)
To read the FlixWorthy archives, click here!