Each week within this column we strive to pair the latest in theatrical releases to worthwhile titles currently streaming on Netflix Instant Watch. This week we offer alternatives to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and We Bought a Zoo.
With the holidays hitting this weekend, a family friendly zoo tale does box office battle with a dizzying espionage thriller and the feel bad movie of Christmas. If you want to spend your holiday revels, relishing inspiring true tales, action-packed adventures, and deeply dark tales of revenge, we got you covered with the best of movies now available online through Netflix.
When seeking the elusive truth behind a missing girl’s disappearance, a dedicated journalist (Daniel Craig) crosses paths with an edgy but enchanting young hacker. Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander, the controversial It girl of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. David Fincher directs.
Like your thrillers extra dark?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) Before Fincher took on Larsson’s mystery tale, Danish director Niels Arden Oplev adapted the Scandinavian novel into a harrowing thriller that launched Swedish actress Noomi Rapace into international stardom. The complete Scandanavian trilogy is now streaming, including The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and The Girl Who Played with Fire.
Panic Room (2002) Jodie Foster stars in David Fincher’s home invasion thriller as an overprotective and potentially paranoid mother who chases her daughter into the confines of their panic room when burglars break in. Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker and Jared Leto co-star.
The Crow (1994) On the anniversary of the brutal murder of aspiring musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancée, Draven returns from the dead to seek a bloody vengeance on the men who raped, tortured and killed his sweetheart. This cult classic is darkly romantic.
The live-action debut of animation auteur Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol features Tom Cruise reprising his role as top secret agent Ethan Hunt, in a new adventure with literal high-flying stunts. Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg co-star.
Action-adventures with quirky/cool heroes abound:
Mission: Impossible (1966) While Cruise’s former Hunt tales are not streaming, the thrilling series that inspired them is! In this 1960s series, a team of covert operatives take assignments from enigmatic audio recordings to risk life and limb to save America from its Cold War enemies. There’s plenty of action, stunts, disguises and wild turns. But come on, you know the drill.
The Iron Giant (1999) Brad Bird made his directorial debut with this wonderful (though underseen) buddy comedy. Hogarth Hughes is a young, lonely boy with an overactive imagination. He unexpectedly finds the perfect playmate when he crosses paths with an enormous robot from origins unknown. But Cold War paranoia spurs fear of this mysterious extraterrestrial visitor, forcing Hogarth and his giant friend to make some difficult choices. Treat yourself this holiday with this heartwarming tale of a boy and his robot. The voices of Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston and Harry Connick Jr. co-star.
The Unusuals (2009) Craving more Jeremy Renner? How could you not be! Check out this short-lived cop drama about some offbeat officers. Renner plays New York City homicide detective/diner owner Jason Walsh, who is less than thrilled to be partnered with newbie homicide detective, former vice cop Casey Shraeger (Amber Tamblyn). Informed with a biting sense of humor, this quirky crime drama co-stars Adam Goldberg and Harold Perrineau as possibly the oddest cop pairing ever seen.
Matt Damon stars in this heartwarming family tale based on Benjamin Mee’s memoir about his family’s quest to save a rundown zoo in Southern California. Cameron Crowe directs.
Seeking true and inspiring tales? Try these endearing docs:
Buck (2011) Buck Brannaman, who overcame a harrowing childhood to become a compassionate and skilled animal handler, inspired the Robert Redford feature The Horse Whisperer with his gentle approach to horse wrangling. In this Sundance selected doc, Cindy Meehl follows the legendary horseman across the US to capture his exhilarating life’s story.
Senna (2010) This biographical doc, which we called “riveting”, centers on the extraordinary career of Formula One racecar driver Ayrton Senna. Some may call it no more than a YouTube compilation, but director Asif Kapadia has created a definitive example on the sheer power of editing. Reveling in the thrill of high speed racing, Senna is a compelling ride no matter how little you may know about the sport.
Marwencol (2010) Our final biographical doc for today is even farther off the beaten path, centering on the strange but incredible story of Mark Hogancamp, a man whose forced to pick up the pieces after being the victim of a literally brain-shattering assault. With no memory of who he was before the attack and severely impaired motor skills, Hogancamp begins to reconstruct his life and sense of self by constructing a model town in his backyard, peopled by pint-sized doppelgangers of his closest friends. Here he weaves stories of witches, Nazis, and romance through dedicated craftsman ship and photography. And for Raising Hope fans, this is the documentary that inspired Frank in the recent episode, “The Men of New Natesville.”
Greg Behrendt: Is That Guy from That Thing (2009) Since Netflix has a special Holiday favorites section, this week’s wild card is totally off topic for Yule tide. It’s just wickedly funny. Insanely and utterly, wickedly funny. You might know comedian Greg Behrendt from his talk shows, or as the author of the tough love self-help book He’s Just Not That Into You, and by extensive its insipid movie adaption. However, here Behrendt returns to the form that forged his irreverent and wild sense of humor, and the results are so hilarious that you may laugh your face off. (Fair warning.) In this special, Behrendt mocks his own minor celebrity, metrosexual fashion sense, junk food fixation, and his sometimes self-destructive egotism to riotous laughs and applause. With his blend of manic energy and razor sharp wit, he’s a master at storytelling joke setups that climax with an explosive and sidesplitting punchline. But you may want to watch it after the kiddies or more conservative relatives have gone up to bed, as this special is terrifically raunchy.
Is there a title Now Streaming that you think is worth recommending?
Send your pick(s) to Kristy.
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