Each week within this column we strive to pair the latest in theatrical releases to the worthwhile titles currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.
This week there’s something strange lurking out there in the dark. While aliens and trolls cause havoc here and abroad, a band of British and Middle Eastern comedians take to the road to crack jokes and break down barriers. And if you’re eager to take these kinds of thrills and chuckles home, we’ve got a slew of suggestions for your viewing pleasure.
Sci-fi icon Steven Spielberg and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams team up to bring this much-anticipated tale of childhood adventure and alien mystery to theaters. Super 8 centers on a tight-knit group of adolescent filmmakers who witness a horrifying train crash — and later spot something far more frightening emerge from the wreckage. But who will believe them? Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler co-star. Abrams writes and directs. Spielberg produces.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Spielberg’s seminal sci-fi classic follows lovable schlub Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) who insists he’s been abducted by aliens despite the skepticism he faces at every turn. Left mentally rattled and utterly obsessed, Roy crafts messages in mashed potatoes and seeks a meaning to his close encounter, ultimately finding solace when he encounters other abductees. Teri Garr co-stars.
Lost (2004) Abrams co-created this Emmy-winning drama that drew in fans like a moth to a very mysterious flame. Blending genres and offering more questions than answers, Lost drove its audience wild for six mind-bending seasons that followed the twist-packed exploits of a mostly gorgeous group of plane crash survivors, stranded on a strange deserted island. Now you can get Lost all over again, as the complete series is streaming. Matthew Fox, Maggie Grace and Josh Holloway co-star.
Muppets from Space (1999) For something a little lighter, try this kid-friendly feature about family, friendship and – well – aliens. After years of being the world’s only blue weirdo, a lonely Gonzo goes in search of his long-lost family, a quest that inevitably involves cosmic fish, a duplicitous government agency, a plethora of celebrity cameos and plenty of funk (music)! Jeffrey Tambor, Andie MacDowell and David Arquette co-star.
While shooting a doc on bear hunting, a trio of college students stumble onto a mysterious poacher who leads them into the wilds of Norway, where trolls aren’t folk lore but reality. Writer/director André Øvredal blends elements of the found footage, mockumentary and monster movie genres to create something refreshingly new and undeniably fun. Otto Jespersen stars.
Best in Show (2000) Among the best mockumentaries made, Christopher Guest leads a cast of stellar improv comedians in this wacky look at the fiercely competitive world of dog shows. Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch co-star.
Dead Snow [Død Snø](2009) For a bit of pitch black humor mingled with some Norwegian-styled gore and horror, try this zombie tale. When a sex-crazed group of co-eds take to the rural mountains of Norway for a snowy getaway, the last thing they expected was to have their frolicking interrupted by leagues of gold-seeking undead Nazis.
Troll 2 (1986) Perhaps the best-known “troll” movie to date, this classic camp disaster follows a good ol’ American family on their vacation to a strange little town called Nilbog. Here the two-faced locals are fierce vegetarians who harvest their own very special brand of plant life.
Culled from their BBC series, Brit wit Steve Coogan teams with nitwit Rob Brydon in this buddy comedy that puts the pair on a restaurant tour of the U.K. Michael Winterbottom directs.
Celebrate the best of British humor with these BBC comedy series:
Saxondale (2006) Coogan stars as over-the-hill roadie Tommy Saxondale in this rollicking sitcom. While Tommy was once rubbing elbows with rock stars, he’s now an often enraged owner and operator of a pest control company. Ruth Jones and Rasmus Hardiker co-star.
Gavin & Stacey (2007) For a bit of Brydon, try this romance-centered sitcom that scored him a BAFTA nod for his supporting turn as Uncle Bryn. Mathew Horne and Joanna Page co-star as a couple trying to make it work in modern-day U.K.
That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006) You like your British comedy duos unquestionably quirky? Try the pairing of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, two blokes who embrace absurdity on their sketch show with such recurring sketches as the confounding game show “Numberwang” and the jaunty but ludicrous adventures of “Sir Digby Chicken Caesar.”
Just Like Us
Egypt-born stand up Ahmed Ahmed gathers together a group of talented and culturally diverse comedians to take on taboos and break down cultural barriers with the healing power of politically incorrect humor. As Ahmed offers, “If we laugh at ourselves, the rest of the world will laugh with us.” Whitney Cummings and Tommy Davidson co-star.
Fill your weekend with the best of Middle Eastern comics:
Comics without Borders: Season 1 (2008) This short-lived stand-up series spotlights comics from all over the world, crossing borders and taking on cultural divides with barbed punchlines. Ahmed Ahmed, Angelo Tsarouchas, B-Phlat, Bret Ernst, Edwin San Juan, Erik Griffin, Felipe Esparza, Justin Worsham and Kristeen Von Hagen perform.
The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour (2007) Ahmed first flew in the face of War on Terror paranoia with this biting collection of stand-up that also features Aron Kader, Maz Jobrani and Dean Obeidallah. Each comic sharply pokes fun at the anti-Muslim sentiments they’ve experienced, ranging from the awkward to the awful, in this inclusive comedy special.
Maz Jobrani: Brown and Friendly (2009) For a double dose of Iranian stand-up Maz Jobrani, pair Axis with his long-form stand-up special, in which he tackles Middle Eastern mores, modern day politics and the tricky topic of race. Special appearance by WWF Champ The Iron Sheik.
Wild Card Pick
Aimee and Jaguar (1998) Another Pride Month pick, this striking true story centers on two women who fall in love in the midst of Berlin in World War II. Lilly (Juliane Köhler), the unhappy wife of a Nazi officer, meets the beautiful but mysterious Felice (Maria Schrader), a rebellious Jewish journalist, during a air strike. Despite the danger, their attraction is immediate and unquestionable. Felice pursues her bourgeois crush by sending a love letter curiously signed “Jaguar.” With the constant threat of death and destruction ever-looming, the women choose to embrace life and quickly develop a deep and passionate connection, wringing out every moment of joy possible as their world crumbles around them. Based on the memoir of Lilly Wust, this sweeping war-set story of love is deeply moving and filled with gutsy yet vulnerable performances. Indeed, Köhler and Schrader crafted portrayals so poignant that the two women shared the illustrious honor of a Silver Bear for Best Actress, awarded at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival.
Can you think of a connection/suggestion we missed? Share them in comments.