FlixWorthy: Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

By David Wharton 2010-03-01 18:02:57
Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Each Monday FlixWorthy dives headfirst into Netflix's streaming catalogue and surfaces with a handful of new or notable selections for your amusement and edification. Sometimes it'll be classics, sometimes it'll be little-seen gems, sometimes it'll be shows you might have missed, and sometimes...sometimes it'll be crap so awful it simply has to be seen to be believed. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.

(2002, Rated PG-13)
Time has not been kind to those involved with Signs. Nobody can quite figure out whether Joaquin Phoenix's hobo beard and hip-hop career are performance art or some sort of elaborate practical joke. The international Zionist conspiracy will never let Mel Gibson live down the "Sugar Tits" incident. And M. Night Shyamalan...poor M. Night Shyamalan. Sure, The Last Airbender looks like it might actually be fun, but can anything ever wash out the taste of the triple-decker cinematic shit sandwich of The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening? Maybe that's what the aliens in Signs were trying to warn us about. Decode those crop circles and they spell out, "Forget about The Village. Make Unbreakable 2." At any rate, Signs is pretty much Night's last good movie...well, half of a good movie, at least. Shyamalan does slow-burn suspense better than just about anybody else, and Signs has moments that easily equal The Sixth Sense on that front (flashlight + cornfield = 'nuff said). Unfortunately, Signs proves that The Sixth Sense was both the best and the worst thing ever to happen to Shyamalan, as he takes a suspenseful, smart meditation on faith and undercuts it with a wholly illogical twist. Still, the weak ending doesn't completely override the quality storytelling that precedes it. Signs is the last hurrah of a gifted filmmaker before he descended into self-indulgence and irrelevance. Fingers crossed that Night will someday find his way back out of the cornfield. Give me Unbreakable 2 and I'll forgive you the past eight years, brother.

Double-Feature It With...
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Despite a youth spent stewing in geek culture, I have somehow made it 31 years without seeing either this film or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Sure, Night still had his ego mostly in check during Signs (he didn't cast himself as a writer whose work will literally save the world, for instance), but you'll still probably appreciate a less pretentious outing to cleanse your palate. Ain't nothing pretentious about Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Dead Snow
(2009, Not Rated)
When it comes to overplayed elements of geek culture, "zombies" and "Nazis" would have to be near the top of the list. Still, if Call of Duty has taught us anything, it's that combining those two can somehow make the worn-out seem fresh again. Dead Snow pits a group of vacationing friends against a horde of rotten, pissed-off Third Reich-ers, set against the soothing white backdrop of the mountains of Norway. Facts: blood looks awesome when contrasted with snow, and the only thing funnier than zombies is a pack of zombies wearing Nazi uniforms. I haven't seen the flick yet, but a trusted friend of mine had kind words for it last summer, and he just had his first zombie novel published, so he's kind of an expert. Dead Snow is currently averaging almost four stars from Netflix users, but all I really need to know is found in the plot synopsis: at one point somebody straps a machine gun to a snowmobile. That's straight-up G.I. Joe shit right there.

Double-Feature It With...
From Norway, let's hop on over to Canada for yet another zombie-related horror-comedy. Taking a slightly more light-hearted approach, Fido unfolds in an alternate 1950s where the zombie apocalypse has been circumvented by collaring the undead and using them for menial labor. Hey, Fido, get in the bathroom and clean my draaaaaaaaaaiins.

Great Expectations
(1946, Not Rated)
Aliens? Zombies? Killer klowns? We need to class this joint up, stat. And it's hard to get classier than David Freakin' Lean. Just look at that resume. Being responsible for Lawrence of Arabia alone makes him more awesome than you or I will ever be, but then he had the audacity to throw down Doctor Zhivago and The Bridge on the River Kwai as well. Back before he was forcing somebody to come up with a more epic word than "epic," however, he was making the definitive film adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic Great Expectations. You heard what I said, Ethan Hawke, so just sit back down and don't even. This movie has a 100% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes and is considered by many to be the best Dickens adaptation ever made. Plus, you probably just read the CliffsNotes back in school, so watching this is actually Good For You.

Double-Feature It With:
Oliver Twist
It's more Lean. It's more Dickens. It's also rockin' a 100% RT rating. More please? You betcha.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
(2008, Not Rated)
If there's one good thing that came out of the WGA writers' strike, it's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Written by no fewer than three separate Whedons (Joss, Zack, and Jed), along with actress Maurissa Tancharoen, Dr. Horrible is a tragicomic musical that took the internet by storm and resulted in more sudden crushes on Felicia Day than any other property to date. Neil Patrick Harris stars as the titular frustrated supervillain, who finds his plans for world conquest temporarily sidelined thanks to his falling head-over-feet for Penny (Day), a sweet girl he met at the laundromat. Unfortunately, Horrible's arch-nemesis Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) proves just as adept at derailing the Doctor's dreams of love as he does at foiling his bank robberies. Fans of Buffy's musical episode know what to expect here: sly humor, catchy tunes, and an emotional sucker punch or two. Warning: you will be humming "Brand New Day" for at least a week after viewing.

Double-Feature It With:
Serenity is both a moral victory for fans left hanging and a cautionary tale that a fervent fan base doesn't always translate into box-office success. But more importantly: it's a damn good time, as rousing and bittersweet a closing chapter as Firefly fans could have asked for.

Dark Shadows: The Complete Revival Series
(1991, Not Rated)
The original gothic soap opera ran from 1966 to 1971, produced over 1,200 episodes, and introduced legions of fans to a supernatural world of ghosts, witches, and a brooding vampire named Barnabus Collins. With Tim Burton and Johnny Depp planning a big-screen adaptation, you can bet Dark Shadows will be getting a lot of press in the next few years. If 1,200 episodes seems like a bit too much of a commitment, check out this moody 1991 remake starring Ben Cross as Barnabus and Joanna Going as Victoria Winters, his fated lover throughout the ages. The show became a victim of the first Gulf War, bouncing all over NBC's schedule in the wake of breaking news, which is a shame since it premiered to solid numbers originally. Dark Shadows can teeter over into the melodramatic, but its guilty pleasures generally outweigh its weaknesses. And check out a tiny Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young David Collins!

Double-Feature It With:
Kolchak: The Night Stalker: The Complete Series
Famously influencing Chris Carter in his creation of The X-Files, Kolchak is pure '70s cheese carried almost entirely on the shoulders of the inimitable Darren McGavin. Bedecked in a porkpie hat and seersucker suit, newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak (McGavin) faces off against werewolves, zombies, demons, and even a homicidal robot. Steer clear of the lackluster 2005 remake series; McGavin's Kolchak is the one and only.

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