Netflix's streaming service has made renting movies easier than ever, But with the site's ever-shifting catalogue, and overwhelming amount of available titles, it can be difficult to browse for worthwhile watching. So, we offer this bi-weekly column where we'll take a look at the most thrilling new theatrical releases, and pair them with noteworthy titles currently available on Netflix Instant, allowing you to make the most of your home viewing.
This week, in the spirit of Prometheus, Rock of Ages and Your Sister's Sister, we offer a selection of sci-fi flicks, rock musicals old and new, and a trio of tremendous indie comedies.
Ridley Scott returns to the world of Alien to weave a new sci-fi-fueled tale of terror. Noomi Rapace stars as an archaeologist who guides a crew of explorers and scientists to a far off planet in search of the origins of humankind. But what they find could well spur Earth's destruction. Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba co-star.
Prometheus is a great example of modern special effects and big sci-fi ideas, so we've picked three more movies that were sci-fi landmarks in their own ways, whether being one of the greatest sci-fi offerings of the silent era, a classic with a mind-bending finale, or a TV series with ambition bigger than most movies.
Metropolis Restored (1927) Long before computer graphics dominated special effects, Fritz Lang was aweing audiences with practical effects and perspective tricks to bring to life a masterwork that's imagery is still inspiring artists of all media forms. While the original film was cut down to de-emphasize its political message as it traveled the world, this version includes the original orchestral score along with 25 minutes of recently uncovered footage, to create the fullest Metropolis seen in more than 80 years! Silent actress Brigitte Helm dazzles in her duel roles as a delicate young woman with dreams of peace, as well as a maniacal and sexy robot with ambitions for utter annihilation!
Planet of the Apes (1968) Charlton Heston stars in the sci-fi classic as an astronaut lost in space who stumbles upon an incredible planet where men are mute, wild, and ruled over by talking apes. Even though its effects/costumes are a little laughable now, the engaging adventure and powerful performances make this Planet totally worth revisiting. Roddy McDowall co-stars; Franklin J. Schaffner directs.
Torchwood (2006-2011) For something more modern and decidedly more unnerving, check out this British-made spin-off of the long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who. John Barrowman stars as the incorrigible and unkillable Captain Jack Harkness, the head of a mysterious organization called in to investigate extraterrestrial matters and confront alien aggressors. While on the surface it sounds like The X-Files, this series has a grander ambition, sometimes throwing the fate of the entire world into their season-long plot lines. Eve Myles and Kai Owen co-star. Seasons 1-3 are now streaming.
Rock of Ages
Tom Cruise headlines this adaptation of the popular Broadway jukebox musical that boasts rock anthems from Twisted Sister, Journey, Guns N' Roses, and many more. At the center of this ensemble tale is a small town girl and a city boy who fall in love on the Sunset Strip en route to their own Hollywood dreams. Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, and Catherin Zeta-Jones co-star; Adam Shankman directs.
Infused with plenty of camp and charm, Shankman and his cast unleash spirited renditions of many classic rock songs. But if this isn't enough to satisfy your thirst for catchy tunes and rowdy dance numbers, try this trio of musicals that offer pop-recreations, old-school rock and roll, and a sweet serving of pre-rock R&B.
Glee (2009) Rock of Ages composer Adam Anders first worked with choreographer-turned-director Adam Shankman on two episodes of this pop-fueled phenomenon that follows the musical misadventures of a drama-prone glee club made up of freaks, geeks, jocks and cheerleaders—or Cheerios in gleek speak. Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, and Lea Michele co-star. Seasons 1 – 2 are now streaming.
Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) At Vince Lombardi High School, the whole student body grooves on the spur of the moment musical numbers that break out in its halls—that is until their humorless new principal puts her foot down, crushing impromptu dance breaks. Spurred on by their love of Alice Cooper, Devo, and The Ramones—who cameo—these teens fight for their right to rock out. P.J. Soles stars.
Memphis: the Musical (2011) Set in the 1950s, this Tony-winning Broadway musical—filmed before a live theatre audience—unfolds the story of a white radio DJ and a black songstress whose taboo love sparks a dangerous backlash in their racially divided community. Lively numbers in the vein of early rock 'n' roll with a smooth R&B influence unfold their tale with a radiant energy and captivating passion. Chad Kimball and Montego Glover star.
Your Sister's Sister
Overcome by grief over the death of his brother, Jack seeks solitude when he takes up his beloved friend Iris's offer to spend the weekend at her family's isolated cabin. But upon his arrival Jack finds Iris's sister and an inviting bottle of booze, and so begins a weekend that will change the trio's lives forever. Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt co-star; Lynn Shelton directs.
As an indie director, Shelton takes risks with Your Sister's Sister that would be deemed too daring for a Hollywood dramedy, offering a tale of the ties that bind that is so free of conventional expectation that its hard to know how it'll end. Which is marvelous. If you enjoy this sort of film risk, try this selection of female-directed indies that unfold three tales of friendship with plenty of pathos and humor.
Humpday (2009) Before Shelton crafted the beautiful Your Sister's Sister, she helmed this far sillier feature, which focuses on how the intense one-upmanship-based bond between two straight male friends led them down the path to amateur gay porn. Mark Duplass stars once again, this time playing a married man whose reunion with his adventurous old pal (Joshua Leonard) spurs him to promise to create a sex tape for Seattle's infamous Hump film festival. From this cringe-inducing premise, Shelton and her improv-skilled cast spin a remarkably funny and insightful comedy.
Lost in Translation (2003) In Sofia Coppola's Oscar-winning indie, Bill Murray plays a washed-up movie star whose poor career choices have landed him alone and very lonely in Tokyo, Japan. But adrift amid the swarms of people and a culture he can't comprehend, he meets a beautiful young American woman (Scarlett Johansson) just as lost as he, sparking a sweetly romantic relationship that swells into an unforgettably graceful and enigmatic finale.
Diggers (2006) Katherine Dieckmann directs this intimate indie penned by—and co-starring—The State's Ken Marino. Set in a Long Island clam-digging community, this spirited ensemble comedy tells the story of four friends (a family man, a burnout, a playboy, and an aspiring artist) who fell into the lives of their fathers, and now are struggling to make them their own. Underseen but thoroughly warm and wonderful, Diggers boasts a cast that includes Paul Rudd, Ron Eldard, Maura Tierney, Lauren Ambrose, Josh Hamilton, and Sarah Paulson.