Wading through Netflix's massive catalogue of streaming titles can be overwhelming, so every other week we offer this column. Here we scour through Netflix Instant's library so you don't have to, plucking out suggested viewing comparable to the noteworthy films currently opening in theaters.
This week, in the vein of The Amazing Spider-Man, Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Imposter, we've got a selection of superhero flicks, animal-centered adventures, and unconventional crime docs for your viewing pleasure. So beat the heat by making your living room the best theater in town!
The Amazing Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield stars as the titular web-slinger in this reboot that tackles Spidey's origin story, weaving into its web a romance with Gwen Stacy, played here by the winsome Emma Stone. Martin Sheen, Denis Leary, and Sally Field co-star; Marc Webb directs.
With so many superhero movies hitting theaters over the last few years, there's something for every moviegoer's taste. To celebrate the diversity, we pair this reboot with a selection from three different phases of the superhero genre: Classical, Revisionist and Parody.
Superman: The Movie (1978) A classical superhero movie about a classic superhero. Christopher Reeve defined The Man of Steel for much of the world with his performance here, and with the groundbreaking special effects brought together by in director Richard Donner this action adventure defined our concept of a superhero movie. At its center is a seemingly ordinary man called Clark Kent, who has an extraordinary secret and incredible abilities that he must hide from the ambitious journalist of his dream, Lois Lane. Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman co-star.
Kick-Ass (2010) After a new insurgence of superhero movies hit throughout the 2000s, producing/screenwriting partners Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman translated Mark Millar's gritty comic about ordinary people becoming self-made superheroes into a dark comedy that called into question the value of supeherohood. This revisionist genre entry rejected the kid-attracting PG-13 ratings of its Hollywood predecessors, and favored an often bleak depiction of the vigilante lifestyle of a caped crusader. But for all its dark questions, Kick-Ass still managed to offer humor and action that go for the jugular. Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Moretz co-star.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008) Representing the parody phase of the superhero genre is Joss Whedon's internet miniseries about an aspiring supervillain. Turning up the absurdity of superhero tropes, Whedon spun a tale about the rise of Dr. Horrible (the one and only Neil Patrick Harris) complete with a strong-chinned good guy with the lame superhero name Captain Hammer (fangirl sex symbol Nathan Fillion), an ill-fated love interest (fanboy sex symbol Felicia Day), and catchy music numbers! It's everything you ever…
Ice Age: Continental Drift
This marks the fourth adventure of Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Manny the mammoth (Ray Ramono) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary). Having faced meltdowns and dinosaurs, the unlikely trio is forced to adapt when Pangaea separates setting them adrift on an iceberg. Using it as a ship, they attempt to find their way back home, meeting a new crew of kooky characters along the way. Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier direct.
If you can't get enough of family friendly tales of animal-centered adventure, check out this trio of titles that each have a visually distinct and wild world at their core.
DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda Awesome Secrets (2008) As a companion piece to the Oscar-nominated spectacle Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks created a series of shorts that expanded on the film's world, unfolding the backstories to some of the film's most fearsome warriors. Po (Jack Black) is charged with instilling in a group of overeager kung fu amateurs the tenants of the martial arts discipline; to do so he reveals the turning points of the Furious Five as well as their masters. Blending 3D computer animation with watercolor-inspired 2D form of cartooning,Awesome Secrets is as beautifully realized as its heralded source material.
All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) Burt Reynolds channels his charming troublemaker persona into Charlie B. Barkin a mutt and hustler who is killed by his growling bulldog business partner Carface (Vic Tayback). Faced with an eternity of goodness and peace ahead of him, Charlie tricks a canine angel and cons his way back to Earth, an act that destines him to damnation. But could the love of a young orphan girl turn Charlie around and save his soul? Animation legend Don Bluth tackles these questions of morality and mortality in a colorful kids' flick that is even more bizarre than you remember.
Follow That Bird (1985) Jim Henson took his Sesame Street cast to the big screen with this road movie about Big Bird being forced to live with "his own kind". But the doddering Dodos are not the family Big Bird imagined, so he runs away spurring his true family—from Cookie Monster to Super Grover, Bert and Ernie—to hit the road in a wacky adventure to get him back where he belongs! But when you're a lost Big Bird in a much bigger world, how do you get back to Sesame Street?
Documentarian Bart Layton investigates the stranger than fiction tale of serial identity thief Frédéric Bourdin, who in 1997 conned his way across the Atlantic Ocean and into the home of a Texas family by convincing them he was their long lost son. This Sundance selected film features interviews with Bourdin as well as the members of the family he fooled and the criminal investigators that unraveled his lies.
With each new detail of The Imposter, audiences are forced to reconsider what they thought was true, making for a mind-bending experience that'll linger for days. For more compelling tales of unconventional criminals, check out these docs that explore the world of graffiti art, performance art, and the fine art appreciation.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) Directed by the mysterious graffiti artist and political activist Banksy, this Oscar-nominated doc called into question the very nature of art when commerce comes into play spurring countless debates among graffiti arts fans and detractors. Though it features interviews with noteworthy artists like Banksy, Space Invader and Shepard Fairey, the real star of this heady picture is Thierry Guetta—or as he re-invents himself "Mr. Brainwash." What begins as an attempt to capture the energy and thrill of this oft-illegal art form evolves into a story about one man who bought his way into art world celebrity. Love it or hate it, it's impossible to take in this documentary of art, vandalism and arguable theft without an impassioned opinion.
Man on Wire (2008) Like The Imposter and Exit Through the Gift Shop, James Marsh's Oscar-winning doc also centers on a Frenchman with a peculiar ambition. Philippe Petit is a high-wire walker who wanted to literally take his act to new heights. More specifically he dreamed of walking a wire placed atop New York City's Twin Towers. Playing out like a mix between a documentary and a heist thriller, Man on Wire reveals how Petit planned, built a team, then took a daring step off one of the edge of the World Trade Center and became a legend.
The Art of the Steal (2009) On its surface, the story of a stubborn art collector's collection of modern art seems inherently dull. So take my word for it when I tell you that documentarian Don Argott unfolds the story of self-made billionaire Dr. Albert C. Barnes and his meticulously culled collection of Renoirs, Cezannes, Matisses, and Picassos in a way that makes The Art of the Steal a thoroughly thrilling, edge of your seat experience. With an avante garde appreciation for the evolving Post-Impressionist style, Barnes amassed a collection of paintings he found special and wondrous. But scorned by the sophisticated elite of Philadelphia, he retreated to the country and took his incredible collection with him. As the years passed and the art world caught up with Barnes, a sinister plot arose to wrestle his beloved collection away from his exclusive Barnes Foundation. It's a shocking look at the underbelly of high society crime.