Each week within this column we strive to pair the latest in theatrical releases to the worthwhile titles currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.
As super-powered mutants do battle in multiplexes across the nation, a trio of indies will open in limited release, unleashing tales of love, acceptance, and protest. To take the heart-pounding, mind-broadening, soul-warming and/or consciousness-awakening experience home, try our selected picks from the libraries of Netflix’s streaming features.
X-Men: First Class
In this prequel to Bryan Singer’s genre-resurrecting X-Men, director Matthew Vaughn leaps back to 1963, where Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is just beginning to lay the groundwork for his school, with the help of his best friend, Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender). Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kevin Bacon co-star.
Kick-Ass (2010) The self-reflexive indie flick that brought Mark Millar’s gritty comic to life is also what scored director Vaughn the X-Men gig. Aaron Johnson stars as a high-school kid with superhero aspirations – despite his total lack of superpowers. A giddy, violent revisionist entry into the comic book genre, Kick-Ass features unchained performances by crazy Nic Cage and fangirl favorite Chloe Moretz.
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted (2009) Based on the X-Men comic penned by Joss Whedon and drawn by John Cassaday, this motion comic centers on a dark time for the X-Men. With Prof. X out of commission and Jean Grey dead, Cyclops and Emma Frost are left to run the school and the X-Men, a task that becomes substantially trickier when a so-called “cure” to their condition arises and splits the mutant community in twain.
Iron Man: Extremis (2010) This motion comic is an adaptation intended for die-hard Marvel fans. In this TV-MA series, Iron Man faces off against the vicious Mallen, who has designs on a gruesome new technology that would transform men into deadly super-soldiers.
TV actor/director Richard Ayoade makes his directorial film debut with this quirky coming-of-age tale. Within a stylish pastiche of movie allusions, self-aggrandizing teen Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) aims to win the affections of his dream girl (Yasmin Paige) while trying to keep his parents’ failing marriage from imploding. Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins co-star.
The IT Crowd (2006) Submarine’s director may be best known as the mousy Moss from this British office comedy that’s become a cult hit Stateside. The sly sitcom centers on two tech geeks and their computer illiterate boss, and co-stars Katherine Parkinson and Bridesmaids’ Chris O’Dowd. Check it out and earn some Geek Cred.
Harold and Maude (1971) Oliver Tate pontificates like Rushmore’s Max Fischer, but cops his style from Harold Chasen, the suicide-obsessed young man who falls for an eccentric octogenarian in this iconic tale of May-December love. It’s a dark comedy that is surprisingly sweet. Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon co-star.
The 400 Blows [Les quatre cents coups] (1959) The influence of the French New Wave is felt throughout Submarine, but it borrows most notably from François Truffaut’s directorial debut. 400 Blows follows the morose tale of young Antoine, a misunderstood petty thief who struggles to do right by his nagging teachers, brutal father and distracted mother, but dreams of running away from it all.
Best-known as a music video director, Mike Mills returns to cinema with a semi-autobiographical tale of a graphic designer (Ewan McGregor) who is encouraged to pursue a love of his own (Mélanie Laurent) when his dying father (Christopher Plummer) finally comes out of the closet.
Beautiful Losers (2008) Sadly, Mills’ compelling debut Thumbsucker is not currently streaming, but you can get an insight into Mills and his work in this quirky documentary that explores the enigmatic world of underground artists. Mills is featured along with graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, writer/director Harmony Korine, painter Barry McGee, and many others.
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) Just as Beginners is based on Mills’ complicated relationship with his father, his wife, filmmaker/artist Miranda July, based her debut feature on her troublesome single life. This deeply odd tale of human connection follows and entangled web of offbeat would-be lovers in their painfully awkward searches for love. John Hawkes co-stars.
Paris (2009) For a double dose of the intriguing French ingénue Mélanie Laurent, pair Beginners with this vignette-weaving tale of love and mortality. This multi-faceted drama holds a cast of colorful characters including a cabaret dancer awaiting a heart transplant, a eager-to-please social worker who needs to take care of herself, a besotted professor, a motorcycle-riding green grocer and an anxiety-ridden architect. Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris and Fabrice Luchini co-star.
The Last Mountain
Documentarian Bill Haney reveals the harrowing battle the residents of Coal River Valley, West Virginia, faced when they attempt to save the last great mountain in Appalachia from being mined by a large industrial coal company. This riveting eco-doc explores the impact coal mining has on the environment and on us.
Flow: For Love of Water (2008) Filmmaker Irena Salina exposes the overwhelmingly ignored water crisis that is creeping across the world, growing more serious every day. This eye-opening doc begs the question, “How did a handful of corporations steal our water?” It’ll make you rethink your bottled water buying.
Crude (2009) This shocking doc explores the horrifying reality of the indigenous Ecuadorians have had to face because Chevron has polluted the Amazon with billions of gallons of toxic oil, causing a level of environmental devastation that has been unfavorably likened to Chernobyl. Documentarian Joe Berlinger follows their ongoing battle to make Chevron pay for their crimes against nature – and humanity.
No Impact Man: The Documentary (2009) For something a little lighter, this quirky doc centers on one Manhattan family, who aims to radically alter their lives by taking their carbon footprint to zero within a year. Eating locally grown food, composting in their apartment, and washing their clothes by hand (and foot) in their tub, writer Colin Beavan and his reluctant (and oft hilarious) wife Michelle Conlin take being eco-conscious to an all new level. It’s enlightening, amusing, and maybe most importantly non-didactic.
The Wild Card Pick
In & Out (1997) To kick off Gay Pride month, this week’s Wild Card is Frank Oz’s sharp and sassy comedy about coming out with the whole world watching. Kevin Kline stars as fey drama teacher Howard Brackett, a small town man who becomes national news when his former student (Matt Dillon) wins an Oscar and outs him during his acceptance speech. No matter how much Brackett denies he’s gay, all his friends, family, students – even his fiancée – begin to wonder. It’s a laugh out loud comedy full of empathy, heart, and vivid performances. Joan Cusack even scored an Oscar nod for her hysterical portrayal of the scorned and formerly faaaaaaaaat fiancée, a feat rarely achieved for a comedic performance. Notably, above all else, In & Out is a tale of acceptance. With the love and support of his family, Howard is able to be honest about who he is, and his bravery influences his community for the better. Wilford Brimley, Bob Newhart, Debbie Reynolds and Tom Selleck co-star.
Can you think of a connection/suggestion we missed? Share them in comments.
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