Each week within this column we strive to pair the latest in theatrical releases to the worthwhile titles currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.
In theaters this week love stories will do battle with a tent-pole thrill-ride and a Sundance thriller. Robots, lovebirds, and David Hyde Pierce! (Oh my!) For more tales of love — between men and machine, man and woman, or dinner parties and mayhem — check out our latest batch of suggested viewing.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Shia LeBeof and his giant robot buds the Autobots are back to battle the Decepticons for a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the moon…Or something. Michael Bay directs, so expect explosions.
Boys love toys. Here’s three more tales of men and machine:
Voltron: Defender of the Universe: Vol. 1: (1984) If you grew up tuning to the adventures of Optimus Prime and the company, it’s likely you were also a Voltron watcher. Here men (and one princess!) leap into battle within five robot-lions that when joined together transform into a giant warrior-robot! Oh 1980s, you were awesome.
Iron Man 2 (2010) In this action-packed sequel, Jon Favreau went a little robot happy, as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) returns with a cavalcade of Iron Man suits and dozens of imitators. Co-stars include Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Mickey Rourke, who plays the world’s most menacing ribbon dancer.
RoboCop (1987) In this sci-fi thriller, Officer Alex J. Murphy is killed only to be bought back as the pilot program of a new brand of cop – a Robocop. While he’s initially satisfied cleaning up the crime-ridden streets of Detroit, Murphy is soon compelled to investigate his own murder. Paul Verhoeven’s big American breakout, this tale of a cyborg cop is full of action and campy fun.
America’s favorite everyman (Tom Hanks) returns to the romantic comedy as a schlub forced to find a new path in life after getting downsized. And so he goes back to school, where he meets a grandiose-grinned professor played by recurring romancer Julia Roberts. Hanks directs, and co-writes with Nia Vardalos.
The Money Pit (1986) For a double dose of Hanks, revisit this madcap rom-com from the beginning of his career. Here, he co-stars with Shelley Long (remember her!) as a married couple who sinks all their savings in a fixer-upper they hope to make their dream house…which soon becomes a nightmare. Maureen Stapleton and Joe Mantegna lend solid sidesplitting support.
Notting Hill (1999) Out of a long list of Roberts rom-coms, this Richard Curtis-scripted tale of boy-meets-very famous girl may well be her best-received. Hugh Grant stars as an average bloke who falls for one of the world’s biggest movie stars (Roberts) – but not in a creepy stalker way. In this sweet yet cheeky romp, Rhys Ifans lends memorable support as the slack-jawed slacker roommate.
America’s Sweethearts (2001) In this sister-swapping comedy of errors, it’s Catherine Zeta-Jones who plays movie star, while Roberts plays her once-fat but ever-ignored sister/assistant Kiki. And here, it’s a famous guy (John Cusack as a slapstick-afflicted leading man) who falls for the average girl – Kiki! Billy Crystal co-stars and co-wrote this daffy rom-com set at the most romantic locale LA can offer: a press junket.
A charming documentary that explores the meaning of love by following the trials and triumphs of eight New Yorkers. Opens in NY and LA.
As a proud New Yorker, I have a special affection for love stories set in my city. Here’s a few exceptional picks for you to enjoy:
New York, I Love You (2008) Inspired by its French counterpart Paris, Je T’aime, this romance presents a string of star-studded vibrant vignettes that unfold tales of love, set all over New York’s five boroughs, each helmed by a different director. In a long list of incredible cast members, some stand-outs are Shia LeBeouf, Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman (who also directs), Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach (pictured). Directors include: Yvan Attal, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner and Shekhar Kapur.
Manhattan (1979) It’s almost sacrilege to talk New York cinema, and not mention Woody Allen and his special brand of neuroses-heavy romance. While a number of his flicks are currently streaming, Manhattan is quintessential Allen, complete with May-December romance, abounding infidelity, and plenty of pontificating. Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep and Michael Murphy co-star.
An Affair to Remember (1957) A classic that inspired many romances to follow (including the allusion-heavy Sleepless in Seattle). Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr star as a pair of star-crossed lovers who meet aboard a cruise ship. The besotted couple sets a fateful date atop the Empire State Building, but heartbreak follows when one doesn’t appear.
The Perfect Host
This thriller delighted audiences at Sundance in 2010 as David Hyde Pierce’s eccentric host turns the tables on a criminal who has crashed his dinner party. Opens in NY and LA.
Dinner parties can be a treacherous place, as these features prove:
Murder by Death (1976) In honor of the recently departed Peter Falk, allow me to present this kitschy comedy that centers on an ill-fated dinner party, peopled with parodies of every detective archetype! An eccentric millionaire (Truman Capote in a rare film appearance) invites a panoply of detectives to his creepy, isolated mansion for dinner — and murder is on the menu! Maggie Smith, Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers co-star.
Red Dragon (2002) This prequel to The Silence of the Lambs (also streaming) begins with a dinner party put on by a host whose palette is drawn to –let’s say– forbidden fruits. Anthony Hopkins returns as everyone’s favorite cannibal, Hannical Lecter, who plays a precarious ally to Edward Norton’s tenacious FBI agent as he hunts down a gruesome serial killer (Ralph Fiennes). Brett Ratner directs.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) For a taste of the surreal, try Luis Buñuel’s blistering satire which follows a curious dinner party who often ambles but never eats. Fernando Rey and Delphine Seyrig co-star in this Oscar-winning oddity.
Wild Card Pick
I Saw the Devil (2011) This week’s Wild Card pick comes from TFS founder & editor-in-chief Jordan Raup: Kim Ji-woon created one of the best action/western flicks in years with The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and now the director is back with a brutal revenge tale. This devastatingly sleek cat and mouse game subverts your expectations while carving its own place in the genre. Oldboy actor Min-ski Choi plays a sadistic serial killer who targets the fiancée of a secret service agent (Byung-Hun Lee). He soon learns he picked the wrong guy, as Kim Ji-woon weaves a tale of violence that opens up new meanings to the word revenge. The killer may be sadistic, but our director adds in enough motivated action and suspense to prevent this one from turning into a numbing torture porn film like Hostel. Add another soon-to-be classic to South Korea’s already stellar line-up of bloody revenge films.
Can you think of a connection/suggestion we missed? Share them in comments.