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FlixWorthy Breaks Bad And Buries Ryan Reynolds
Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your guide to Netflix streaming! Yet again we're bringing you a handful of new or notable selections from Netflix's Instant Watch 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.
(2008 - , TV-14, Seasons 1-3, HD)
A few months back Netflix landed a coup by adding the first four seasons of Mad Men to their streaming catalogue. Now they've upped the ante by adding AMC's other awesome -- and arguably superior -- drama to the mix. If you haven't yet become an addict of AMC's amazing crime drama, for the love of God what are you waiting for? Bryan Cranston erases every memory of Malcolm in the Middle and earns those Emmys as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who turns to cooking crystal meth after a terminal cancer diagnosis leaves him fearing for his family's future. And while Cranston gets all the press, his co-star, Aaron Paul as junkie-in-over-his-head Jesse Pinkman, is nearly as amazing, especially this current season where he has entered into a very dark place. Over the course of four seasons, creator Vince Gilligan and his writers have elevated tension to an art form and shown us the gradual descent of a decent man. No other show better illustrates the perilous fate of good intentions, and there is, quite simply, no better show on television right now.
Double-Feature It With:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
(1955-1958, Not Rated, Season 1)
A very different type of crime show, from a very different era, Alfred Hitchcock Presents is nonetheless still good fun over 50 years later. Each episode presents a self-contained and devilish story of bad people doing bad things, and adapts stories by folks such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Ray Bradbury, and John Collier.
(1980, Rated PG, 87 min., HD)
After a decade or so of horrible movies in the "**** Movie" vein, it's easy to forget that there was a time when parody movies were actually, well, funny. The quickest way to remind yourself of that fact is to queue up Airplane!, one of the originals of the genre and still arguably the best. Having not watched it in several years, I was surprised at just how well Airplane! holds up after all these years. Sure, there may be the outdated disco scenes and Hare Krishna gags, but you're rarely going to find a more brilliant comic moment than Robert Stack whipping off his aviator glasses, only to reveal a second pair of sunglasses underneath. Or the recurring "Don't call me Shirley" bit. Or "Get me Hamm on five, hold the Mayo." Or the airport announcers arguing about whether one of them should have an abortion. Unlike the wave of modern copycats, however, Airplane never calls attention to its humor. Whereas recent parody movies do everything but stand atop a ladder shouting "Look how funny I am!" Airplane! simply throws out the jokes -- lots of them -- and expects you to keep up. Nor do the characters within the movie mug at their own gags; on the contrary, everyone plays it straight, which makes the ridiculousness all the funnier.
Double-Feature It With:
The Naked Gun
(1988, Rated PG-13, 85 min., HD)
One of the greatest gifts Airplane! gave us was Leslie Nielsen as a comedy actor. As fans of Forbidden Planet will remember, he'd traditionally been a more dramatic actor, but he possessed the unique talent of being freaking hysterical when playing it absolutely straight. While he began to play things a bit broader as the years went by, at his best nobody could do a better stonefaced delivery of outlandish lines.
(2010, Rated R, 95 min., HD)
At first glance, Buried sounded like a bad joke about Hollywood's more ridiculous tendencies, a parody of every "high-concept" movie idea ever dreamt up in a Los Angeles coffee shop. A guy wakes up buried alive...and then the entire movie unfolds inside the coffin? How the hell are you supposed to make the inside of a coffin interesting for 90 minutes? Sure, Kill Bill served up a terrifying similar scene, but it only lasted for a few minutes. On the other hand, Chris Sparling's script for Buried earned a spot on the 2009 Black List, Hollywood's annual round-up of praiseworthy unproduced screenplays, so obviously it had some fans. The finished film, while plagued with an unsteady and somewhat silly middle act, is grounded by a raw performance by Ryan Reynolds and clever direction by Rodrigo Cortes. Reynolds puts all memories of Van Wilder aside as a terrified contractor in Iraq who awakens after an attack and finds himself buried alive. He has a cell phone to communicate with the outside world, but no idea where he is, and his attempts to lead his rescuers to his location forms the spine of the film. The Iraqi setting adds an extra sheen of plausibility to an already horrifying notion, and Reynolds milks it for all it's worth. For his part, director Cortes finds interesting ways to -- I'll be damned -- make the inside of a coffin interesting for 90 minutes. Not for the faint of heart, but absolutely worth a watch. (You can read Cinema Blend's reviews of Buried here and here.)
Double-Feature It With:
(2008, Unrated, 99 min.)
To be fair, Donkey Punch is not a very good movie. It is, however, a kindred spirit of Buried in one way: it's based on a premise that I can't believe somebody would actually make a movie about. As near as I can tell, this is a movie spawned by somebody telling somebody else what a donkey punch is, and then somebody else in the room thinking (incorrectly), "Hey, that would make a good movie." Consider it as a case study that sometimes odd ideas can beget brilliant movies...and sometimes they're just as bad an idea as they initially sound.
(1994, PG-13, 92 min.)
Everybody has their little guilty-pleasure movies. The ones that make you laugh your ass off time and again, but which you wouldn't want anybody to notice on your DVD shelf. Well, allow me to pronounce my love -- loud and unashamed -- for the 1994 rock comedy Airheads. Yes, it stars Brendan Fraser. Yes, the entire premise is ludicrous. But it's hilariously ludicrous. Fraser stars as Chazz, the lead singer of wannabe rock trio The Lone Rangers ("There's three of you. You're not exactly lone."). After trying over and over to get their demo tape into the hands of a recording company, Chazz and his compatriots, Rex (Steve Buscemi) and Pip (Adam Sandler), decide to hold a local radio station hostage in order to force them to play their music. From there things spiral into a tsunami of unintended consequences that can only be resolved with a far-fetched ending that would only work in the movies. To this day, Airheads is one of those movies my friends and I quote with great frequency (so to speak). When it comes to rock comedies, Spinal Tap may be king, but if I'm honest, Airheads gets more airplay in my household. Give it a watch, then you'll understand why it's important to include "naked pictures of Bea Arthur" in your list of demands in any hostage situation.
Double-Feature It With:
(1985, Rated PG-13, 93 min.)
Why not pair Airheads with a story of another couple of young men in pursuit of a seemingly unattainable dream? In this case, however, that dream involves a computer-generated hottie who looks like Kelly LeBrock (where's that technology, Bill Gates?).
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