FlixWorthy: Shutter Island, The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus, And More

By David Wharton 2011-01-07 23:31:03
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.


Shutter Island
(2010, Rated R, 138 min.)

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio's ongoing flirtation continued last February with this long-gestating adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel. Leo stars as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall tasked with investigating the disappearance of a patient from the titular island hospital. As Teddy digs deeper into the mystery, he only finds more questions, as well as a steadily increasing sense that neither the hospital staff nor his own partner (Mark Ruffalo) may be entirely trustworthy. And remember, Teddy, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't actually out to get you. Shutter Island is visually stunning, oozing with style...and really rather predictable, actually. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it -- I did -- but it didn't win me over to the same degree it did boss-man Josh Tyler. I'd put Shutter Island in the same category as Black Swan: it may not be hard to guess what's going down (insert Natalie Portman/Mila Kunis joke here), but it's one hell of a ride getting there. My only quibble is that Netflix isn't offering Shutter Island streaming in HD. If you're curious about the flick, it's definitely worth adding the queue, but it really ought to be seen in high-def.

Double-Feature It With:

Insomnia
(2002, Rated R, 118 min., HD)

One good thriller deserves another, so why not team up Shutter Island with an earlier work of one of the most talented filmmakers around? Christopher Nolan directed this remake of a 1997 Norwegian flick of the same name. Al Pacino turns in a solid performance as troubled detective Will Dormer, whose investigation into the death of 17-year-old girl leads him to suspect that Alaskan crime writer Walter Finch's interest in murder may extend beyond the fictional.




The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
(2009, Rated PG-13, 122 min.)

Poor Terry Gilliam. For all his imagination and talent, he's as much known for his failed productions as his successful ones. While The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus never became a clusterfuck on the order of, say, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, it ran up against an even more tragic turn of events when lead actor Heath Ledger died a third of the way through filming. Credit to Gilliam and his crew for coming up with a solution that allowed the movie to be finished and for some of Ledger's contemporaries to honor his memory. Taking advantage of the film's fantasy premise, Ledger's role was completed by not one, but three actors, with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell each taking a turn as the character repeatedly passes through a magic mirror and alters his appearance. The film itself received mixed reviews, but it's worth watching both as a curiosity and because Gilliam's movies are always fascinating and creative even when they are deeply flawed.

Double-Feature It With...

The Fountain
(2006, Rated PG-13, 96 min., HD)

The Fountain was originally going to be a $70 million project boasting Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles. It eventually arrived with half the budget and Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz instead, but I think it's the better for it. While the script spans centuries, The Fountain is a deeply personal and human story. The visuals are breathtaking, but they're not the point. While it's about as divisive a movie as I've encountered, I love it more with each viewing, and Hugh Jackman gives perhaps his best performance ever.




The Larry Sanders Show
(1992, TV-MA, Four Seasons Available)

Hey now! I almost couldn't believe it when this show turned up on Netflix's streaming catalogue. I was too young (and cable-deprived) to ride the Larry Sanders bandwagon back when it was first airing in the '90s. But after hearing nothing but good things for years, I finally got the chance to dive in when the first season came out on DVD years back, and I was hooked. And then...nothing. There was no sign of further seasons coming out, and it seemed as if the apparently underperforming first-season set would be yet another frustratingly truncated pop culture artifact relegated to the "Regret" section of my video shelves along with Firefly and Wonderfalls. Eventually we got a best-of set, which was the equivalent of rubbing salt into my open wound. Leave it to the folks over at Shout! Factory to finally release a complete-series set this past November, and now even those of us without $115 bucks to toss down can experience the first four of the show's six seasons via Netflix streaming. Do I wish we got all six? Sure. Am I going to quibble? Not a bit.

Double-Feature It With:

The Kids in the Hall
(1989, TV-14, All Five Seasons Available)

If you prefer your comedy less metafictional and more Canadian, the entire run of the sketch comedy troupe that gave us Dave Foley is now streaming. Now if only they'd add Brain Candy.







Cronos
(1993, Rated R, 92 min., HD)

Blade II may have out-earned Cronos by quite a bit, but I'll take Guillermo del Toro's 1993 take on the vampire genre over Wesley Snipes any day of the week. Hell, you don't even have to sacrifice your Ron Perlman quota, because the big lug appears in both. Like the Twilight saga, Cronos puts some unique spins on the time-worn tropes of vampire lore. Unlike Twilight, however, Cronos isn't a creepy, poorly written pile of steaming adolescent fan fic. Del Toro's unlikely bloodsucker is Jesus Gris, an elderly antiques dealer who finds his youth returning along with an unfortunate craving for blood after an ornate, scarab-like artifact injects him with some unidentified goop. The Man Who Would Be Hellboy shows up as a brute tasked by his rich, dying uncle with recovering the vampire-spawning device. The twisted, unmistakable imagination del Toro later put to good use in the Hellboy films and Pan's Labyrinth was already on full display in Cronos, and I can't wait to watch it again.

Double-Feature It With:

Let the Right One In
(2008, Rated R, 114 min., HD)

I finally got around to watching this much-buzzed flick just last week, and it was just as good as all the people bugging me about it had insisted. If, like me, you have made it this long without seeing this Swedish original, or this year's Matt Reeves-helmed American remake Let Me In, I'll only suggest you add it to your queue immediately. And if you've made it this far without being spoiled, I ain't saying anything else.



Frozen
(2010, Rated R, 94 min.)

Firmly in the same camp as Open Water or the recent Ryan-Reynolds-in-a-coffin flick Buried, Frozen imagines a worst-case scenario and then throws a few poor schmucks right into the middle of it to see what happens. In this case the far-fetched inciting incident arrives after three partying friends bribe a ski chairlift operator to let them ride up for one last trip down the slopes. Unfortunately, the lift is powered down half-way through their ride, and the resort closes as a storm descends. Left stranded mid-air in freezing temperatures, the kids must figure out how to get to safety or else face a chilly, nipple-hardening death. God help them if anybody starts licking anything. You can check out our theatrical and DVD reviews of Frozen, but if you'd prefer a more temperate tale of mass-transit horror, perhaps escalators are more your speed?

Double-Feature It With...

Donkey Punch
(2008, Unrated, 95 min.)

Speaking of high-concept movie pitches, how about one based almost entirely on a hopefully hypothetical sexual act? Sure, there are the barest threads of a plot here, but after watching it it's pretty clear this is the result of a late-night drunken conversation where somebody explained the concept of a donkey punch to somebody who'd never heard of it before. Let this be a lesson to you: don't greenlight movies while chemically altered.


Also of note...
The Disney/ABC deal has begun bearing Netflix fruit. Multiple seasons of shows such as Brothers and Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Greek, Grey's Anatomy, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager are now streaming.






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