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.
It's an interesting time for Netflix, with the company taking heat over its recent price increase and competitors on every side doing their best to become genuine threats. Whether the anger at Netflix is justified, it's certainly understandable, so it will be fascinating to see what the company has to offer in coming weeks. If I were them, I'd be doing my damnedest to line up some really exciting content to help calm the naysayers (not to mention their stockholders). Will they recover, or is the age of Netflix domination coming to an end. We'll just have to wait and see.
In the mean time, here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids...
(2010, Rated R, 115 min., HD)
The Fighter is a perfect example what Netflix does well. It's one of the most praised and talked-about films of last year, and it's got a stellar cast and crew including Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo, under the direction of David O. Russell. It rates 91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and it earned two Oscars and was nominated for nearly a half dozen others. It's also a movie that, however buzz-worthy, a lot of people didn't get to see in theaters. Despite having been available on DVD and VOD services for a while now, many of those people -- myself included -- still haven't checked it out. How many will watch the movie now on Netflix that never would have otherwise? While we're all paying a monthly fee for Netflix, the simple fact that we don't have to approve individual purchases makes it easier and more convenient to try new stuff, and sort of tricks our brains into feeling like we got something for free. Whatever eventually dethrones Netflix -- assuming anything does -- defeating that psychological carrot-and-stick of the monthly fee/watch all you want model will be tough. In the meantime, let's all finally sit down and enjoy the story of down-and-out fighter Mickey Ward and his no-good half-brother/trainer, Dicky. And let's all pretend we're getting it for free!
Double-Feature It With:
(2010, Rated PG, 123 min.)
Audiences love a good underdog story, even if that underdog is a horse. Look, even if you haven't seen Secretariat, you've already seen Secretariat. You can guess most of the twists and turns, you know how it will all end, and you know that the score will be emotionally manipulating you the whole way through. But hey, sometimes you're in the mood for feel-good fluff. If now is one of those times, check out Secretariat.
The Kid Stays in the Picture
(2002, Rated R, 93 min., HD)
Despite having repeatedly laughed my ass off at Patton Oswalt's Robert Evans bits, I have never actually seen The Kid Stays in the Picture. Now, that will change. Evans is the notorious producer of such huge films as The Godfather and Chinatown, and The Kid Stays in the Picture is based on his autobiography of the same name. The documentary traces Evans' career through highs, lows, and troubles with the law. Even better, the entire affair is narrated by Evans himself, the man Oswalt described both as "my hero" and "actually Satan." The film uses footage from the producer's films alongside interviews and photographs from Evans' long, strange trip through Hollywood. Give it a watch, if only to judge how accurate Patton's impression of the man is.
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Tales from the Script
(2009, Not Rated, 104 min.)
It might not be as scandalous as The Kid Stays in the Picture, but Tales from the Script is worth a watch for anyone who aspires to make a living writing, especially in Hollywood. Screenwriters such as John Carpenter, Frank Darabont, and the legendary William Goldman tell tales from inside the trenches.
(2005-2006, TV-MA, Two Seasons, HD)
Like the excellent but also short-lived Brotherhood, Sleeper Cell never quite made it onto the radar for most people. One of Showtime's early attempts at original series, Sleeper Cell was eclipsed by the successes of shows like Weeds and Dexter, and that's a shame. Fortunately, now it's got a new chance to find a bigger audience. As the title suggests, Sleeper Cell focuses on an undercover terrorist group operating inside the United States, and the Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates the group in order to bring it down. The cell is targeting Los Angeles, which may inspire 24 flashbacks, but you probably won't have to worry about annoying blonde girls fleeing from cougars on Sleeper Cell. Creators Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris also worked on Brimstone, in case any of you were wondering what ever happened to them.
Double-Feature It With:
(2004-2009, TV-MA, Five Seasons, HD)
Like Sleeper Cell, Rescue Me was also a product of the events of, and public mindset after, September 11th. While the former follows the men and women who strive to keep us safe, the latter focuses on those who risk everything when the worst does happen. Rescue Me has had its ups and downs over the years, but the story of alcoholic, womanizing, deeply damaged firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and company is always funny, often gripping, and occasionally poignant.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series
(1994-1997, TV-Y7-FV, Five Seasons)
Opinions are pretty sharply divided over The Amazing Spider-Man, even with the release of a surprisingly good trailer. Some claim the character needed a fresh start after the train wreck that was Spider-Man 3. Some are still loyal to Raimi's vision of the character and think a reboot this soon is preposterous. Some of us just want to know why we have to be subjected to yet another freaking origin story. For me, however, if I want a pure dose of Spidey-related nostalgia, I have only to queue up episodes of this Spider-Man animated series from the mid '90s. It may not have the complexity or maturity of its contemporary, Batman: The Animated Series, but it makes up for that by being a ton of fun and packed to the gills with fan service. Pretty much the entirety of Spidey's rogues gallery turns up, from obvious enemies like Doc Ock and The Green Goblin to deep cuts like Kraven and The Chameleon. You'll even get appearances from Marvel mainstays like Doctor Strange and the X-Men. They've done several Spider-Man series in the years since, but none of them have topped this one in my book.
Double-Feature It With:
X-Men: The Animated Series
(1992-1996, TV-Y7, Five Seasons)
Speaking of contemporaries, Netflix has also added the complete run of the similarly awesome X-Men animated series. Like the Spider-Man series, it treats its subject matter with respect and manages to be great fun for adult fans and kids alike. This show is also why, with all due respect to Bryan Singer and Hugh Jackman, Wolverine will always sound like this guy to me.
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