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 Parker, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and Movie 43 for inspiration, we've pulled together a selection of mind-blowing action movies, fascinating fairy tales and raunchy ensemble comedies.
Jason Statham stars as the titular master thief who seeks vengeance on the crew that turned on him and left him for dead. Teaming up with an unscrupulous real estate agent (Jennifer Lopez), Parker plans to hijack the duplicitous crew's next take. Michael Chiklis, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Nolte, Clifton Collins Jr., and Patti LuPone co-star; Taylor Hackford directs.
With a convoluted plot and major misfires, Parker will likely be a flick quickly forgotten. But if you enjoy action movies centered on captivating criminals, you're sure to check out this tense trio that includes a face-snatching terrorist, a charismatic bank robber, and a daring drug dealer/devoted dad.
Face/Off (1997) FBI agent Sean Archer takes going undercover to a new extreme when he has plastic surgery to swap faces with imprisoned terrorist Castor Troy. But when this unhinged criminal escapes—with Archer's face—the tables are turned in a crazy game of cat and mouse. John Travola and Nic Cage star and swap roles with a flare that's insanely fun to witness; John Woo directs.
Out of Sight (1998) Jennifer Lopez cemented her movie star status with this whip-smart crime comedy that co-stars George Clooney. He's a bank robber with a smile that makes tellers melt, and she's a federal marshal who is as sassy as she is fearless. Their meet-cute takes place in the trunk of a car as he escapes prison. Later, as she tries to track him down, their game of cat and mouse only adds fuel to the fire of their smoldering shared attraction. Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, and Don Cheadle co-star; Steven Soderbergh directs.
Sleepless Night (2011) Beginning with a bloody shoot out in the streets, this tautly paced thriller follows Vincent, an undercover police office whose allegiance is called into question when a bust goes bad. When a drug lord kidnaps his teenaged son, Vincent can't go to his cop colleagues and so must infiltrate the kingpin's nightclub to get his boy back. This crime thriller out of France has been universally cheered by critics, and described as a mash-up of Die Hard, 24 and Taken. What else could you possibly want? Tomer Sisley stars; Frédéric Jardin directs.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Tommy Wirkola, the writer-director of the Nazi zombie horror-comedy Dead Snow, makes his English-language debut with this steam punk-influenced take on the classic fairy tale. Here a grown Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters whose specialty is tracking and burning the nefarious witches that capture and kill young children. Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and Famke Janssen co-star.
I've argued Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is secretly great, and well worth the price of admission. But if you're looking for other inventive takes on the sugary fairy tales you remember from your childhood, these should satisfy, delving into these stories Grimm origins, taking them into a modern context, and revealing what came before.
Scary Tales (2011) This 3net series explores the origins of such classic stories as Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Pied Piper, and Hansel & Gretel. Speaking with experts they not only unfold the grisly early versions of these bedtime tales—which include far more dismemberment and cannibalism than I ever knew—with discussions of what these ghastly stories reflected in old world society. Creepy and fascinating, this show makes clear why John Updike called fairy tales "the television and pornography of an earlier age."
Once Upon a Time (2011) Dealing strictly in fantasy, this ABC drama series centers on Emma Swan, a contemporary bounty hunter with a checkered and enchanted past. When the son she gave up for adoption finds her, she's shocked at his claims that he comes from a town under a spell and that she is the daughter of Snow White, destined to set the fairy tale inhabitants free from the reign of an evil witch. This one's a bit slow to start, but balancing its modern-mystery narrative with flashbacks to familiar stories told with a fresh and fierce perspective, it soon gets too good to turn away from. The first season, which is now streaming, boasts appearances from Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and many more. Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Robert Carlyle co-star.
Neverland (2011) Serving as a prequel to the classic tale of Peter Pan, this two-part mini-series posits Peter in Victorian-era London, where he's the second in command to a band of boy pickpockets led by the wily adult crook, Jimmy Hook. But their bond is tested when a magical orb whisks these lost boys to a planet far away, where pirates, fairies and Indians promise plenty of adventure. Rhys Ifans, Anna Friel and Charlie Rowe star; but best of all Bob Hoskins plays Smee, reprising the role he played in the 1991 Peter Pan sequel Hook!
In this collection of comedy vignettes, a bunch of stars gather to do unspeakable things to shock and amuse you. Dennis Quaid, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Emma Stone and many, many more co-star.
By most accounts Movie 43 is downright unwatchable, full of gross-out gags and few laughs. Thankfully, Netflix has plenty of comedies to choose from, including the three star-stuffed ensemble comedies below that are wild, raunchy and plenty of fun.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001) This cult classic spoofs the camp-centered movies of the 1980s with a culmination of wacky clichéd plotlines like the geek gets the girl, outsiders save the day, opposites attract, and plenty of sex-related shenanigans. Like Movie 43 it boasts plenty of stars, but whether its Elizabeth Banks covered in BBQ sauce, Paul Rudd having a lunch tray tantrum, or Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper having a talent show-related meltdown, none of these celebs have anything to be embarrassed about here. Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, and Christopher Meloni co-star; David Wain directs.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011) Its title promises a wild ride, and its cast delivers. The story centers on a batch of thirty-something friends who decide to have one final summer blowout when their traditional summer retreat is put up for sale. With all the ragers the crew has throw, there's only one line left to cross: group sex. Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb, Nick Kroll, Tyler Labine, Lucy Punch, Will Forte, and Martin Starr co-star; Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck write and direct.
Butter (2011) This overlooked comedy centers on a the quirky American subculture of competitive butter sculptors. Jennifer Garner stars as a domineering housewife who sees butter carving as her path to the White House. But her plans to dominate the competition are threatened by a revenge seeking stripper (Olivia Wilde) and an orphaned butter-carving prodigy (Yara Shahidi). Alicia Silverstone, Rob Corddry, Kristen Schaal, Ty Burrell, and Hugh Jackman co-star; Jim Field Smith directs.