With so many titles to choose from, Netflix Instant's library can be overwhelming. And so we offer this bi-weekly column as a tool to cut through the clutter by highlighting some now streaming titles that pair nicely with the latest theatrical releases.
This week we looked to Cloud Atlas, Wreck-It Ralph and The Man With the Iron Fist for inspiration, offering a selection of big idea sci-fi/fantasy, family-friendly adventures, and some very violent action flicks.
The Wachowski Siblings—or Wachowski Starship if you prefer—team up with Tom Tykwer to tackle David Mitchell's Russian nesting doll of a novel that was said to be unfilmable. Weaving together six stories throughout time and space, the filmmakers explore the forces and experiences that connect all mankind. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Doona Bae, Hugh Grant, and many, many more co-star.
Even if you haven't seen Cloud Atlas, you've probably garnered it is a movie full of big ideas. Themes of human connection, feminism, and love being indestructible are delved into within the astounding landscapes common to science fiction and fantasy. For more remarkable films that aim to not only entertain but also broaden your mind, try out the trio below.
The Dark Crystal (1982) Jim Henson explores the concept that all things—good and evil, Mystic and Skeksi—are connected in this trippy and imaginative adventure. The story centers on an orphan named Jen, who is among the last of the Gelfling race. In a world out of balance, ruled by the decadent whims of carnivorous and decadent Skeskis, only Jen and his newfound friends can save the world from eternal Skeskis reign. Henson and Frank Oz direct and co-star.
Born in Flames (1983) Filmmaker Lizzie Borden attacks racism, classicism, sexism, and homophobia in her landmark feminist opus. Set in a dystopian future where America has become socialist and misogyny and bigotry are on the rise, this sci-fi feature focuses on the revolution sparked by Adelaide Norris, a blue-collar, educated African-American who speaks out against society's double-standards. She inspires women—gay and straight, white and black—to unite as the Women's Army, a vigilante paramilitary force that aims to protect women and challenge that powers that be. But the fight for equality goes to the next level when Norris is arrested and mysteriously dies in police custody. Adele Bertei and Honey co-star; Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Bogosian make their screen debut.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Through their recurring casting Cloud Atlas, establishes the idea that love transcends death as characters again and again find themselves drawn back to their loved ones from a time they don't remember. Similarly, Charlie Kaufman's mind-bending romance focuses on two lovers who can't bear but make the same mistakes of the heart over and over. Jim Carrey stars as a heartbroken man who discovers his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) has altered her brain to forget him, and so decides to do the same. But as the process begins to snatch away memories of her, he decides he can't bear to let her go and so races down the pathways of his mind looking for a way to preserve her. Michel Gondry directs; Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood co-star.
Disney's latest animated feature plugs into the rich world of video gaming with the story of an 8-bit bad guy who dreams of being a hero. But when Wreck-It Ralph abandons his arcade game to seek out the glory of being the good guy, he throws the whole linked worlds of the arcade into spin. Rich Moore directs; John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch lend their voices.
The first step to becoming a hero is often made by stepping out of one's everyday world. Whether it be leaping into a new time, a new dimension, or just outside the walls of one's palace, the protagonists of these motion pictures—like Wreck-It Ralph—discover their destinies by breaking their routine and taking a risk that makes for a wildly entertaining adventure.
Futurama the Movie: Bender's Big Score (2007) Wreck-It Ralph's director Rich Moore executive produced this 88-minute movie that followed Futurama's fourth season. It's the first of a trilogy—the second and third of which are also streaming—and here Fry, the dopey pizza delivery boy from the 20th century who accidentally cryogenically froze himself to the 31st century, time travels to save his friends from nefarious scammers, thanks to a mysterious tattoo on his ass. Like you do. Futurama seasons 1-6 are also available.
Jumanji (1995) The adventure in this family-friendly fantasy begins with a seemingly harmless board game. When young Alan Parrish plays the jungle-themed game with his crush, he and she are shocked to discover it takes immersive entertainment to a whole new level, literally sucking him into the game! 26-years-later a brother and sister pick up the dusty board game and upon playing accidentally unleash wild animals as well as a grown and feral Alan! Joe Johnston directs; Kirsten Dunst, Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt co-star.
Mirror Mirror (2012) In Tarsem Singh's vivid interpretation of Snow White, the titular pale princess is kept like a recluse in the castle her father built by the passive-aggressive bullying of her evil stepmother, the Queen. That is until the day she decides to venture forth and not only discovers a charming and pantsless prince, but also her destiny to save the land from the Queen's tyrannical rule! And while she's at it, she'll throw out those dullsome gender convention of needing a prince to save her. Julia Roberts, Lily Collins and Armie Hammer co-star.
The Man With Iron Fists
RZA and Eli Roth team up to create a martial arts movie decked out with loads of jaw-dropping action and glorious gore. RZA stars as a blacksmith with badass fighting skills who gets caught in a war waged between clans; he also directs. Russell Crow, Lucy Liu and Pam Grier co-star; Quentin Tarantino presents.
The Man with the Iron Fists draws influences from the incredible fight choreography of classic martial arts films, the intense gore of Eastern action cinema, and the themes of rebellion explicit in the Blaxploitation movement. We pay tribute to each of these influences below, picking one standout from each genre.
Enter the Dragon (1973) Arguably the best-known epic of Bruce Lee, the action star who not only brought martial arts to the masses but also defied convention, becoming an Asian leading man as well as powerful director-producer in a Hollywood dominated by white talent. This was the first martial arts film produced by a major Hollywood studio (Warner Bros.) Here Lee plays an undercover monk who enters the world's most exclusive and unrelenting martial arts tournament to bust its organizer, a major player in drug trafficking. Robert Clouse directs; Lee, John Saxon, and Jim Kelly star.
Battle Royale (2000) This brutal Japanese blockbuster is set in a dystopian world where the government routinely takes classes of students to an isolated location and forces them to kill each other to be the last kid standing. Though this film never managed a US release, it became a cult sensation Stateside and is a noted favorite of Quentin Tarantino. With all its graphic yet campy gore, it's easy to see why. Kinji Fukasaku directs; Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda and Tarô Yamamoto star. And bonus: Battle Royale 2 is also streaming.
Afro Samurai (2007) Inspired by Takashi Okazaki's gruesome graphic novel, this animated series blends Eastern martial arts with hip hop culture to create a uniquely badass hero. Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Afro Samurai suffers no fools as he sets out on a quest to avenge the murder of his father by challenging a gunslinger called Justice. RZA served as composer for the visually striking series as well as for its TV-movie sequel, Afro Samurai: Resurrection which is also now streaming.
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Staff writer at CinemaBlend.