With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we believe it’s our duty to highlight the recent, recommended titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below, and shoot over suggestions to @TheFilmStage
Bad Words (Jason Bateman)
Perhaps Jason Bateman is tired of playing the likeable voice of reason amongst more idiotic counterparts, an character that his iconic turn as Michael Bluth on “Arrested Development” has typecast him into performing ever since the show’s cult success. Whether it’s Horrible Bosses, The Change-Up or Identity Thief, he’s played some variation of the consummate straight man with unparalleled comedic timing. With his directorial debut, Bateman has finally found a role that will let him prove he can be the mercurial, loudmouth dickhead, while everyone else on the periphery can attempt to appeal to whatever morsel of humility he may have left. – Jared M. (full review)
Faust (Alexander Sokurov)
Somewhere between a Rabelaisian paean to Earthly pleasures, complete with the drunken waltz of the camera, and a serious investigation to the failure of human desire for knowledge, Alexander Sokurov’s Faust is quite unlike any other cinematic event I’ve encountered this year. The film’s loose adaptation of Goethe’s masterwork sees no difference between its highly aspirations and its low humor—an opening CGI shot that sets up an epic mythology ends with a blurry shot of a flaccid (and dead) penis of a cadaver being examined for the progress of human knowledge. – Peter L. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Gambit (Michael Hoffman)
In November 2012, a film called Gambit, starring Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz, was released into theaters in Britain. It grossed less than $2 million in the UK and just over $10 million worldwide. However, despite its two starry leads and a script courtesy of the Coen brothers (yes,those Coen brothers), it was picked up by CBS Films, who have been holding on to it all this time. Now, a year and a half later, Gambit is quietly getting a release to those living stateside…on VOD, with a minuscule theatrical run as a courtesy. – Dan M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg)
While it was far from a large-scale effort, Joe Swanberg stepped up his game with Drinking Buddies, marking his highest profile film yet in both cast and budget, and he’s now set to follow it up with a Christmas-themed drama, one that will hopefully continue his knack for authentic characters. Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, and Swanberg himself, the story follows a woman who moves into her brother’s house following a break-up. Reviews were fairly positive out of Sundance, and it’s now available on VOD ahead of a theatrical release. – Jordan R.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Brian Knappenberger)
If you’ve been on the internet, there’s a chance you’ve used a service that Aaron Swartz has had a hand in. A co-founder of Reddit, a developer on RSS, an organizer of Creative Commons, and countless other services, he had a phenomenal impact on what we call the internet today. Sadly, his life was cut short as he committed suicide last January, presumably due to pressure following the efforts of the government to jail him for up to 35 years and fines in the millions because of harmlessly gathering data to academic journals at MIT. Directed by Brian Knappenberger, the documentary chronicling his life and auxiliary efforts around internet freedom is formally standard, but a powerful testament to Swartz’s effort, properly defining him as a hero.- Jordan R.
Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax)
If you’ve seen but one of Leos Carax‘s other films — and when those options include The Lovers on the Bridge, Holy Motors, Boy Meets Girl, and Pola X, let’s hope this is the case — it will be both predictable and reductive to describe his second feature, Mauvais Sang, as “strange.” Less an oddity in the sense of form or narrative — well-rounded though it also happens to be in those regards — and more confounding, I think, for its indefinably slippery quality. Binoche and Levant leave their expected mark on a minute-to-minute basis, yet the offered experience is almost akin to watching a hazy remembrance of some sci-fi story — thus, the picture should benefit well from repeat viewings one might now take advantage of. Or, if nothing else, just all those times you’ll rewind the “Modern Love” sequence. – Nick. N
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans)
Relentlessly brutal and violent, The Raid 2 is an appropriately over-the-top sequel to the original action blockbuster. Directed by Gareth Evans, the film is a kinetic frenzy of punches, kicks, elbows, machetes, shivs, baseball bats and hammers blended together into a bloody pulp of cinematic entrails. Shooting with an entirely Indonesian cast, as well as a few Japanese actors to make up the Yakuza, this sequel aims to expand upon the chronicles of Officer Rama, played with ferocious prowess by martial arts expert Iko Uwais. But while the original’s strength lied in the simplicity of its premise, The Raid 2 cranks every element of the production to deafening levels of chaos. Featuring an unbelievable body count, insane fight choreography and action set-pieces that defy reality, Evans’ film builds to operatic levels of mayhem. – Raffi A. (full review)
They Came Together (David Wain)
The subject of well-deserved lamenting, we’ve seen a number of films subvert or subtly ridicule Hollywood’s generic romantic comedy genre, but the parody to end them all has arrived with They Came Together. In an era where much of the spoof genre simply lazy repeats scenarios, David Wain‘s latest comedy brilliantly and hilariously deconstructs every aspect of the genre to provide one of the funniest films one is bound to see this year. – Jordan R. (full review)
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
Each shot, scene, and location flows together in perfect harmony. Director Jonathan Glazer packs all these pretty images with real emotion, thanks to cinematographer Daniel Landin‘s stunning work, Mica Levi‘s haunting and moving score, and, of course, Scarlett Johansson‘s ambitious performance as an alien who abandons her mission. This is the kind of risky performance where an actor could easily fall on their face. Some scenes take huge tonal risks that only a good actor could pull off. Thankfully, Johansson is always up for the challenge. – Jack G.
Whitey: United States of America V. James Bulger (Joe Berlinger)
Joe Berlinger‘s sprawling and ambitious documentary tackles the trial of one of the countries most infamous criminal masterminds, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. It is an explosive examination of the many players involved in his sprawling web of crime that spanned nearly thirty years. By carefully following the prosecutors, defense attorneys, thugs turned rats and family members of the victims seeking justice, the film weaves together an ornate tapestry of corruption that is a comprehensive exploration of a very complicated case. Insightful and revelatory, this documentary will surely fascinate anyone with any interest about the case or learning about the man who inspired Jack Nicholson‘s character in The Departed. – Raffi A.
Also Available to Stream