FlixWorthy: Up in The Sky -- District 9!
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.
(2009, Rated R, 112 min.)
2009 was a good year for genre movies, with two instant classics entering the genre -- Moon (which I raved about here) and District 9. D9 has a lot of fun playing with the mocumentary format, introducing us to a world very much like our own, with one important difference: in 1982 a huge alien mothership descended above Johannesburg, South Africa. After the ship was breached, it was discovered to be full of lobster-like aliens -- apparently manual labor for whomever built the ship. The "prawns" were given sanctuary and herded into a camp dubbed District 9. Three decades later, nebbishy bureaucrat Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is tasked to assist private-military company Multinational United by overseeing the relocation of the prawns to the new, more remote District 10. Naturally, things don't go smoothly for poor Wikus, and he soon finds himself on a journey that gives him new insight into humanity's racism toward the aliens. Shot by co-writer/director Neill Blomkamp for a reported budget of $30 million, District 9 is a stunning visual accomplishment that rides on the back of a compelling, well-crafted story. District 9 uses its visual effects not to show off, but to create a detailed, immersive world in which to tell a story that is, like the best genre fiction, not really about aliens or motherships or ray guns so much as it's about us. In other words, it's the anti-Transformers.
Double-Feature It With...
(2007, Not Rated, 91 min., HD)
American Zombie applies the fake-documentary structure District 9 often uses so well to that most well-trodden ghetto of horror films, the zombie movie. AZ takes a darkly comic approach as two filmmakers tour a Los Angeles zombie community and get to know America's latest marginalized minority, who turn out not to be all that different from the rest of us.
(2009, Rated PG, 96 min.)
Pixar's latest Oscar-winning feature tells the story of an old man reconnecting with the dreams of his youth with the help of a chubby Asian kid, a giant bird, and a talking dog named Dug. Like all of Pixar's films, it's filled with stunning sights, plenty of humor, and more heart than the cardiac wing at Johns Hopkins. It also includes, hands down, my favorite thing Pixar has ever done: the elegant and touching "Married Life" montage. Without a word of dialogue, Pixar takes us through all the happiness and heartbreak of two people sharing a life together...up until they're not anymore. Your kids will love the talking dogs, the silly bird, and the thrilling blimp battle, and those of us with bills to pay will appreciate the reminder that it's never too late to start living your life again, even if it seems like it's already over. Ed Asner is the definitive Crotchety Old Man as Carl Fredricksen, but props must also be give to young Jordan Nagai as the hyperactive Russell. If you're bemoaning the fact that we're only halfway through the work week, sit back and let Pixar lift your spirits Up, Up, and away.
Double-Feature It With:
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
(2009, Rated PG, 90 min.)
Our own Katey Rich loved Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and she wasn't the only one. The animated adaptation of the children's book about a town plagued by food raining from the sky brought in around $239 million worldwide. For best results watch while eating.
(2010, Rated PG-13, 75 min., HD)
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies may have has the bragging rights of reuniting many of the voice cast from the '90s animated series -- notably Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor -- but this latest DC Animated release was a vast improvement over that empty, extended action sequence masquerading as a movie. Despite the absence of Conroy or Daly, Crisis on Two Earths feels like the good old days of the Diniverse...and with good reason. Crisis was supposedly once intended to bridge the Justice League cartoon with its successor series, Justice League Unlimited. While there are differences that place it outside of the official canon, Crisis does nearly as good a job getting these iconic characters right, combining great animation with clever set pieces and solid character work. It's everything you could want out of a classic comic premise: fan-favorite superheroes going up against evil-goateed-universe versions of themselves. And James Freakin' Woods as the nefarious Owlman? How the hell can you not love that?
Double-Feature It With...
Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection
(1995, TV-MA, 16 eps.)
No, not the godawful live-action version starring Charlize Theron. The deeply weird series of animated shorts that aired as part of MTV's "Liquid Television" back in the '90s. Created by Korean animated Peter Chung, Aeon Flux is set in a future dystopia where the lanky title character runs around doling out violence and agenting in secretive manner.
(2003, TV-14, 12 eps.)
Ah, Chapelle's Show. Rarely has a pop-cultural phenomenon skyrocketed so swiftly and then collapsed so precipitously. A few years past all the weird rumors, theorizing, and South African psychiatric hospitals, all we're left with is two full seasons and change that, fortunately, are just as funny today as they were back then. Granted, the show peaked early with the story of Clayton Bigsby, the blind white supremacist who doesn't realize he's black, and it was also responsible for every popped-collar asshole you've ever met screaming "I'm Rick James, biatch!" every 15 minutes for a two-year period. But honestly, that's a small price to pay for the Wayne Brady sketch. Both full seasons of the show are available streaming, as well as the so-called "Lost Episodes" they cobbled together after Chapelle bailed.
Double-Feature It With:
Richard Pryor: Here and Now
(1983, Rated R, 95 min.)
Last week I sang the praises of the on-screen pairing of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, but as magic as those two were together, Pryor was never better than when he was on stage in front of an audience. It's only fair to pair Chapelle with the ground-breaking comic who paved the way for him. This performance is from 1983 in New Orleans, three years after Pryor's infamous fiery freebasing accident.
(2004, Not Rated, 7 eps.)
Drawn Together always seemed like an also-ran in the ever-expanding "raunchy cartoon" field, constantly overshadowed by titans like Family Guy and South Park. Still, you have to respect the show for its sheer commitment to going over the top and attempting to offend any and all comers. This is a show where the Disney-esque Princess Clara assumes Josie and the Pussycats reject Foxxy Love must be a servant because she's black. Where that selfsame princess is incapable of having sex because her evil stepmother cursed her vagina. Where the super-heroic Captain Hero accidentally gives Foxxy a brain tumor with his x-ray vision. The concept is surprisingly clever, albeit not as timely as it originally was: a pack of animation archetypes are locked in a house together as part of a Real World-style reality show. In addition to the three above, you've also got Wooldor, an insane escapee from an equally insane children's show; the far-past-her-prime, black-and-white Toot; Ling-Ling the homicidal psuedo-Pokemon; Xandir the gay elf; and Spanky the lecherous pig (voiced, appropriately enough, by Adam Carolla). It ain't high art, but it is frequently hilarious. All three seasons are available streaming, but the movie is only available on disc.
Double-Feature It With:
Crank Yankers: Season 1
(2002, Not Rated, 10 eps.)
Speaking of Carolla, he produced this puppets-and-prank-calls show for Comedy Central alongside Man Show partner Jimmy Kimmel. It's a concept that no one would believe could ever actually make it to TV if not for the fact that, well, it did. Still, if you're in the mood for crass, sophomoric humor delivered via puppet -- and who amongst us hasn't been at one point or another -- the first three seasons are at your (plush) fingertips.
A few other recent additions:
The Guild: Season 3
The State: The Complete Series
Stella: Season 1
John Oliver: Terrifying Times
Lewis Black's Root of All Evil: Season 1
To read the FlixWorthy archives, click here!