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Sifting through Netflix Instant's massive selection of titles can be overwhelming. So with this bi-weekly column, we're helping you cut through the clutter by highlighting some of the choice features now streaming that pair nicely with the latest theatrical releases.
This week, in vein of Resident Evil: Retribution, House at the End of the Street, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, we've picked out some female-fronted action flicks, spooky suburban horror stories, and compelling coming-of-age tales for your home-viewing pleasure.
Resident Evil: Retribution
The Husband and wife team of director Paul W.S. Anderson and action heroine Milla Jovovich are back with a fifth installment of the ongoing adventure of leather-loving zombie-killer Alice. This time around Alice awakes deep in the bowels of the evil Umbrella Corporation, which continues to spew forth legions of the ravenous undead. Not only must Alice fight her way out, but also she uncovers some shocking truths about her mysterious past. Kevin Durand and Michelle Rodriguez co-star.
With a string of pulse-pounding action features to her name, cover girl Jovovich proves she's so much more than a pretty face. If you want more thrilling adventures that feature powerful women at their center, we've got a little genre spread below, ranging from sci-fi, to swashbuckling fantasy to espionage thriller.
The Fifth Element (1997) Fun fact: before she got hitched to her Resident Evil director, Jovovich wed Luc Besson, her helmer for this visually dazzling sci-fi adventure. The pair married just months after the film's premiere, which is sort of fitting since this Earth-in-peril pic is ultimately about the power of love. Jovovich stars as "the perfect being" sent to Earth to save us all from a world-ending evil that's arrival is imminent. Bruce Willis plays her gruff guide to all things Earth, including serious sexual chemistry. If you've never seen this: treat yourself. And if you have: revisit immediately; it's better than you remember. Gary Oldman and Chris Tucker lend stellar support as a manic villain and hyperactive radio personality respectively.
Cutthroat Island (1995) Before there was Jovovich and Anderson, or even Jovovich and Besson, there was Renny Harlin and Geena Davis. The former directed the latter in this big budget action-adventure that became one of the biggest box office bombs of all-time. Still, I rewatched this recently, and it offers some pretty extravagant action sequences, along with a so-strange you can't look away romance between Davis—who plays fearless lady pirate Morgan Adams—and Matthew Modine, who hams it up as a social-climbing con man. I won't say it's a good film, but I will promise it's the kind of big dumb fun unique to the late '90s. Frank Langella co-stars as Morgan's evil uncle Dog, who'll kill her to get the treasure he sees as his by right.
Haywire (2012) Unconventional auteur Steven Soderbergh was so inspired after seeing MMA fighter Gina Carano kick some serious ass in a cage match that he decided to arrange a meeting, and offer her the chance to be his muse. From that fateful meeting came this hard-hitting spy thriller that takes stage combat to a ferocious new level. Offering punishing blows and a stern performance-style, Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a savvy spy who must take down a string of deceitful men after being framed for an assassination. If you missed this kick-ass feature earlier this year, take the opportunity to watch Carano beat the holy hell out of such stars as Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author Stephen Chbosky adapts his own heralded coming-of-age novel , writing and directing the story about a shy freshman who stumbles into a life-changing bond with a bunch of misfit seniors. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller star; Chbosky directs.
Coming-of-age tales often fall into schmaltz and sentimentality, but Chbosky's feature strives to make the pain of growing up just as sharply realized as its moments of "feeling infinite." Likewise, each of the features below celebrates the alternating wallops of embarrassment and exhilaration that make up growing up, with varying degrees of humor and pathos.
Adventureland (2008) Also set in Pittsburgh, writer-director Greg Mottola's semi-autobiographical tale that centers on a late bloomer who has graduated from college but is sputtering into getting his life rolling. Jesse Eisenberg stars as the flustered virgin who takes a job at a local amusement park filled colorful characters and plenty of drama. Kristen Stewart and Ryan Reynolds co-star.
Charlie Bartlett (2007) For something a little more lighthearted, try this cheeky comedy that skewers contemporary America's over-eagerness to medicate away teen angst. Anton Yelchin stars as the titular privileged teen who—following his expulsion from yet another prep school—exploits his overprotective mom and manipulates his therapist to score prescription drugs for his new classmates. For a tale about a high school drug dealer, this funny feature is actually delightfully upbeat while maintaining a suitably sarcastic sense of humor as Charlie begins to play shrink to his angst-ridden peers. Robert Downey Jr. and Kat Dennings co-star; Jon Poll directs.
Brick (2005) And finally for something off the beaten path of coming-of-age tales, check out writer-director Rian Johnson's jaw-dropping debut that blended the teen movie and noir genres to create a taut thriller with a sleekly dark sense of humor. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a school-skipping shamus on the case of what happened to his beloved ex-girlfriend. Along the way, he runs across a deceptive drama geek, a cocky jock, crippled dealer and a mysterious queen bee. If you're wondering why critics have been salivating in anticipation of Johnson's upcoming Looper, this detective tale should clue you in.
House at the End of the Street
Jennifer Lawrence stars as the new girl in town whose life in thrown into jeopardy when a romance with the boy next door—whose missing sister brutally slaughtered his parents—turns into a potentially fatal attraction. Elisabeth Shue and Max Thieriot co-star; Mark Tonderai directs.
The House At the End of the Street reminds us horror can live right next door. The illusion of idyllic small-town life is shattered in each of the three frightening flicks below, thanks to murderous undead kids, psychotic patriarchs, and a memento-snatching monster.
Pet Sematary (1989) In Stephen King's tale of fatherly devotion gone horribly wrong, the Creed family is happy with their new home…though the neighbors seem sort of obsessed with the local pet cemetery—rumored to bring back the dead buried in it—and that nearby highway does attract some recklessly fast-moving traffic. But loving dad Louis ignores warnings of both, until his young son is killed by a speeding truck. Blinded by grief, he buries his little boy in the cursed ground, but the weird neighbor is right: "Sometimes dead is better."
The Woman (2011) This is that horror feature that caused major controversy at Sundance last year wherein one audience member attempted a coup at the Q&A. What's all the fuss about? Well, writer-director Lucky McKee's very violent and deeply disturbing film centers on the struggle of a seemingly happy-go-lucky family man who captures a feral woman he spotted hunting, drags her home, and demands his wife and children to help him "civilize" her. Is it misogynistic, feminist or something in between? You make the call. But be warned: this is not for the faint of heart.
Super 8 (2011) For something less spooky and more sweet, check out J.J. Abrams' ode to all things Amblin. This family-friendly but freaky feature is set in a small town where some precocious kids are shooting their own movie when they accidentally capture a train wreck and a massive monster with their camera. As all hell breaks loose around them, they take advantage of the increased military presence to give their film added "production value"…until the monster starts running off with their cast and crew. Then it needs to be stopped! Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler star.