With so many titles to choose from, Netflix Instant's library can be overwhelming. So we offer this biweekly column as a tool to cut through the clutter by highlighting some now streaming titles that pair nicely with the latest theatrical releases.
Looking to Gangster Squad, Mama and The Last Stand for inspiration, we've pulled together a selection of California crime thrillers, kid-centered horror, and gritty games of cat and mouse.
Loosely based on the true story of the downfall of gangster Mickey Cohen, this very violent crime drama set in 1949 Los Angeles reveals what happened when cops turned vigilante to take the malevolent mob boss. Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Brolin co-star; Ruben Fleischer directs.
California is a great place to set a crime narrative, and Netflix has plenty to pick from. Katey recommends Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, and Sean suggests Roman's Polanskis' Chinatown. Sadly, Mack's and my picks aren't streaming, but you can still make a California crime thriller marathon of your own with this chilling trio.
Memento (2000) Christopher Nolan's breakout film focuses on a lone man covered in strange tattoos. This is Leonard Shelby, a widower who suffers short-term memory loss since his wife died under tragic circumstances. Now, he dedicates each waking moment to finding her killer and wreaking vengeance. But when you can't remember the day before, how do you know whom you can trust? Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano co-star.
Mulholland Dr. (2001) David Lynch also tackled an amnesiac tale set in California with this Oscar-nominated drama. In it, a mysterious woman narrowly survives a car accident only to discover she has no memory of who she is. Teaming up with a fresh-faced aspiring actress, she journeys through Los Angeles trying to trace her steps and uncover her past. Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux co-star. Lynch writes and directs.
Brick (2005) The feature debut of writer-director Rian Johnson took LA noir to school--well, high school--to make a movie that is as disturbing as it is slyly funny. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a brooding teen shamus investigating what's become of his missing ex girlfriend who has fallen into a bad crowd. Lukas Haas and Nora Zehetner co-star.
Annabel becomes a reluctant mother figure to two little girls, when her husband's long-lost nieces are discovered alive in the woods. After five years on their own, they are practically feral, but there's something far worse than creepy kids that's invading Annabel's happy home. And her name is Mama. Shepherded by Guillermo del Toro, this marks the feature directorial debut of Andrés Muschietti. Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau co-star.
Horror moviemakers know that being a kid can be downright terrifying. Why else would they throw sweet-faced children into the center of these stories, where they are plagued by their deceased yet smothering mothers, a sinister stepmother, a mysterious not-so-imaginary friend, and a massive man-eating monster.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2004) This South Korean thriller that launched Jee-woon Kim centers on the unsettling story of two young girls who struggle to cope in the wake of their mother's death. And their new stepmother and a malevolent spirit aren't making things easier. Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum and Su-jeong Lim co-star; Kim writes and directs.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) The prequel to the first and second entries in this found footage franchise centers on sisters Katie and Kristi when they were just little girls. It's 1988, and the siblings are living with their mother and stepfather in relative bliss until Kristi makes friends with an invisible entity she calls Toby. As strange things begin to happen, their concerned stepdad sets up cameras to investigate and protect his family. But is it already too late? Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman direct; Christopher Nicholas Smith, Chloe Csengery, and Jessica Tyler Brown co-star.
The Host (2006) South Korean autuer Joon-ho Bong broke through internationally thanks to this mad and marvelous monster movie. The dumping of toxic chemicals in the Han River mutates a simple sea creature into a marauding monster who kills without warning and kidnaps a brave little school girl. Now its up to her oafish grandfather to rescue her. Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon and Hae-il Park co-star; Bong writes and directs.
The Last Stand
Only one thing stands between the merciless leader of a drug cartel as he busts out of prison and breaks for the border: a small town sheriff played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Forest Whitaker and Johnny Knoxville co-star; Jee-woon Kim directs.
After the explosions have gone off and the smoke has cleared, most great action movies boil down to a showdown between two men willing to do anything to come out on top. Whether it be a special agent versus a serial killer, a graduate student versus a sadistic Nazi, or a pair of dueling terminators, these heroes and villains give it all they've got. And the results are not for the faint of heart.
I Saw the Devil (2011) Also directed by Jee-woon Kim, this Korean revenge thriller delivers a powerful and harrowing portrait of the devastating effect vengeance can have on the human soul. When his fiancée is murdered by a merciless serial killer, secret agent Kim Soo-hyeon not only seeks out this sadistic psycho, but also makes a sick game of tracking him, wounding him and setting him free to be hunted once more. As the two devolve into a demonic game of cat and mouse, the body count rises and it becomes harder and harder to root for the film's hero. Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi co-star.
Marathon Man (1976) Dustin Hoffman stars as a grad student forced into a world of espionage when his CIA agent brother (Roy Scheider) is murdered. Conspiracy, diamonds and a Nazi who employs crude dentistry as an interrogation technique all come into play in this classic thriller. Laurence Olivier co-stars; John Schlesinger directs.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises the role that made him a legend in this sequel that pits his killer cyborg—now reprogrammed to save the life of John Connor (Edward Furlong)—against a more hi-tech and deadly model, the T-1000. It gets all kind of crazy, and now streaming is a special edition that boasts 16 minutes of unseen footage and other extras. Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick co-star; James Cameron directs.