Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Sorry we skipped a week, but yours truly was off gallivanting around Austin to help Josh cover SXSW. We're back one again, 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 have to be seen to be believed. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.
I've managed to avoid all things Dan Brown, whether on the page or on the screen. Sure, when The Da Vinci Code came out, I was curious -- mainly about what the hell was going on with Tom Hanks' hair. But not curious enough to sit through a film nearly everyone I know who saw it described as tedious and plodding. If the reviews are to be believed, Angels & Demons is better than its predecessor, if only slightly. It's actually based on an earlier Brown book than Da Vinci Code, but it yet again pits Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon against arcane mysteries involving the Catholic church. This time around, he's called in to figure out who's snuffing cardinals. He soon uncovers a plot by those pesky Illuminati, who aim to wipe Vatican City off the map. It certainly didn't lack for box office, but if you're one of the few who didn't see it and you'd still like to, this is the way to go.
Double-Feature It With... The Interpreter
(2005, Rated PG-13, 129 min.)
I'm all about thrillers starring unlikely action heroes. Why should the cops who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time have all the fun? Let's pair Hanks' Harvard symbologist with Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), a U.N. interpreter who, you guessed it, finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and hears something she shouldn't. She's put under the care of a Secret Service agent (Sean Penn) tasked with preventing the assassination plot she unwittingly overheard. Kidman certainly has better hair than Hanks, and let's face it: director Sydney Pollack > director Ron Howard any way you slice it.
I'm still recovering from the aggressive oddity of Nic Cage's performance as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass. Maybe it shouldn't have caught me by surprise, though: Cage's best moments have always been when he was playing weird, and there's weird to spare in this classic early Coen Bros. outing. While getting his mugshot taken, small-time crook Herbert "Hi" McDunnough falls for policewoman Ed (Holly Hunter), and the two eventually hook up once Hi is released from prison. After learning that Ed is infertile, they conjure up an ill-conceived plan to kidnap the infant son of local furniture kingpin Nathan Arizona. That simple plan becomes a lot less simple once two of Hi's criminal buddies (John Goodman and William Forsythe) enter the picture, and soon things have exploded into a complicated snarl of stolen diapers, bank robberies, and big bounty hunters named Smalls (Randall "Tex" Cobb). Raising Arizona is one the Coen Bros.' funniest movies, chockablock with dialogue my friends and I still quote to this day: "Son, you got a panty on your head."
Double-Feature It With... The Big Lebowski
(1987, Rated PG, 107 min., HD)
Speaking of quotable, does it get any more quotable than The Big Lebowski? I contend that it does not. The Coens combine crime, humor, and idiots like nobody else, and pairing Lebowski with Raising Arizona? It'll really bring the room together.
Dune. Arakis. Desert planet. David Lynch's big-screen version of Frank Herbert's science fiction classic may not be the most faithful, but it has earned a cult following over the years. Is it actually a good movie? I'd have to lean toward "no," but it is visually stunning and has its share of memorable moments. It's been years since I've actually seen the film, but I'm surprised how many elements from the movie have stuck with me. That portentous opening narration. The first appearance of the gargantuan sand worms. The Guild Navigator in its cage of spice gas. Those kick-ass Weirding Modules. And, of course, an oiled up Sting strutting about in what my friend Jason described as an "art deco codpiece." The Sci-Fi Channel's 2000 miniseries version may have been more faithful, but it didn't make nearly the lasting impression on pop culture that Lynch's version did. With another big-screen attempt at cracking Herbert's brick of a book due sometime in the next few years, this is a perfect time to revisit Arakis. After all, a beginning is a very delicate time.
Double-Feature It With: Inland Empire
(2006, Rated R, 172 min.)
Why not pair some early Lynch with something more recent? Inland is Lynch playing in his own sandbox rather than Frank Herbert's (worms and all), so expect more surreality and head-fuckery. Laura Dern plays a married actress having an affair with a co-star (Justin Theroux). This is Lynch, though, so it gets weirder. Soon the line between the fiction of the movie they're shooting and the reality they're supposedly living begins to blur. Your enjoyment of the film will probably depend largely on whether Lynch's earlier films, such as Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive, blew your mind or just pissed you off.
I'll be honest, I don't remember much about Pee Wee's Big Adventure. But what I do remember is this. If you look in my therapist's files, you'll find plenty of references to Large Marge, mixed in with phrases like "recurrent night terrors" and "continuing trauma." Along with the boat ride from Willy Wonka, the Wheelers from Return to Oz, and the lady getting turned into a robot in Superman III, Pee Wee's encounter with Marge ranks amongst the most pants-wetting of my cinematic childhood memories. If you're too young to know what any of that means, just trust me: you're missing out by growing up in a sanitized environment sorely lacking in family films designed to ensure that you don't sleep for weeks thereafter. CGI ain't got nothing on Large Marge. Queue it up and watch hyperactive man-child Pee Wee (Paul Reubens, back before that unfortunate episode of public onanism) set out on a cross-country adventure to find his beloved stolen bicycle.
Double-Feature It With: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
(1971, Rated G, 100 min., HD)
All due respect to Johnny Depp, but the Wonka mold was officially broken with Gene Wilder's performance. Wilder's Wonka is genuinely disturbing, playfully condescending one minute and bordering on homicidal insanity the next. Never is that better exemplified than during the ferry ride, a glorious and mind-altering scene that would never, ever, ever make it to screen these days. I mean, seriously, would you leave your children with this man?
I haven't seen The Stoning of Soraya M. yet, but after reading Nick Venable rave about it, I might just have to. Based on real events chronicled in a book by journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, Stoning follows a reporter who becomes stranded in an Iranian village and is approached by a local woman with a horrific story to tell. Her niece, Soraya (Mozhan Marno), was stoned to death by the townsfolk after being falsely accused of adultery by her husband, who wanted a divorce so he could take a new 14-year-old wife. Clearly a contender for the feel-good movie of the decade. Pair it with Leaving Las Vegas and you'll likely conclude the evening with a shotgun in your mouth.
Double-Feature It With: The Shawshank Redemption
(1994, Rated R, 142 min.)
Don't even watch the whole movie. Just skip to the ending. If you make it through Stoning's bleak subject matter, you'll need two things: a hug and exposure to arguably the most uplifting movie finale in history.