Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New in April: Revival of the Fittest (2014)

With the possible exception of zombies and radiation-breathing monsters, everyone loves a good resurrection, right? Especially if it means a second month in a row of Netflix reviving so many great titles from expiration lists past. It's tough to beat last month's bounty, with all its returning classics and Altman movies, but April's not too shabby either. Among personal faves I'll go ahead and plug Barton Fink (review) and Chinatown (review), both of which have already received attention here but can never be watched too often (and really, if you still haven't seen Chinatown, I'm not sure why you're even finishing this sentence. Go! Stream!).

Marilyn Monroe—and musical—fans also get some love this month, with renewed doses of There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the latter representing Monroe's second collaboration with director Howard Hawks (the first—Monkey Business (1952)—is already available). That brings MM's presence on Netflix to nine titles, and Hawks' to four. And while this still leaves a serious streaming gap in the classics department, it's a step in the right direction.

A very special episode of Family Feud
You could even argue that these last couple months represent a conscious replenishment of many director and star catalogs. For instance, the returns of Titanic and The Terminator mark a beefing up of director James Cameron's filmography on the site, providing backstory for the already-streaming Terminator 2—and simultaneously adding to the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ah-nuld, who recently saw the addition of The Last Stand and Last Action Hero to Instant, can now also be spotted sprinting through The Running Man—one of the more entertaining examples of his late '80s output (and one that fits neatly between two similarly themed films, 1974's Rollerball and 2012's The Hunger Games).

Fellow eighties action alum Sylvester Stallone also sees his presence, er, bulked up this month, with the addition of Rocky and its innumeral—I mean, innumerable—sequels (with the exception of 2006's Rocky Balboa). When combined with last year's additions of Over the Top, Paradise Alley, and Cop Land (the latter two are actually pretty decent), that amounts to a considerable online showing for the Italian Stallion. All that's missing are a Rambo movie or three for a more or less Compleat Stallone Experience (assuming that's your idea of a good time). In the absence of Mr. Rambo, revenge-film freaks will have to console themselves with Charles Bronson's Death Wish series, which arrived en masse this month for your streaming...um... I was going to write "pleasure," but my fingers suddenly cramped up.

What it would take for me to watch a Death Wish flick (YMMV)
If you prefer your action a bit less vengeful and a tad more refined (as all us Fancy Pants Film Guys do), then Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may be more up your bamboo stalk. This provides company for Lee's The Ice Storm, as does his acclaimed 1995 take on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility—combining for an impressive group of the director's work, especially when you include longtime streaming staple Brokeback Mountain.

And if you like Jane Austen, why not a little Charlotte Brontë? Sense and Sensibility is joined by the classic 1944 adaptation of Jane Eyre featuring Joan Fontaine and the looming, booming presence of Orson Welles. For those who may be counting, that brings the total number of Jane Eyres on Netflix to three (one of which is a miniseries). I'll leave it to the hardcore fans to debate whether Welles, William Hurt, or Timothy Dalton makes the swoonier Rochester.

Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg finally gets a couple of decent films on the site. Aside from the (for me) unwatchable Tintin, the world's most successful filmmaker has had little to show for himself on Instant. But like Scorsese and Kubrick last month, that situation has been partly corrected with the addition of one of his best early movies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and one of his later, less populist ones, Amistad (1997), a solid historical drama which could be considered part of an unofficial trilogy with The Color Purple and Lincoln. It's also the film he made as contractual karma for helming the perfunctory Jurrasic Park sequel, The Lost World (a movie so bad I was compelled to track down a copy of Jaws immediately afterwards in order to rinse the taste of dinosaur crap from my mouth). From what I can tell, the streaming version of Close Encounters is the 1998 Director's Cut (its listing as the 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition seems misleading), which means it includes the best material from the theatrical and Special editions, minus the much-reviled inside-the-spaceship finale. If that turns out to be incorrect, I'll revise this accordingly.

A number of other April debuts are also worth noting, including John Huston's Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)—which partially makes up for last month's loss of his final film, The Dead; Penny Marshall's always enjoyable A League of Their Own; the steamy, better-than-it-should-have-been 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair; two Anne Bancroft goodies, 1967's The Graduate and 1977's The Turning Point; guilty pleasures Coneheads (1993), The Fifth Element (1997), and The Naked Gun 2-1/2: The Smell of Fear (which now accompanies the original The Naked Gun); weighty indies Amores Perros (2000), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), and Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002); and a couple of less weighty ones, 1997's Inventing the Abbotts and 2002's Roger Dodger, both underrated and both showcasing excellent young casts.

There are plenty of others I could mention, but I'm droning on too much already. Check out the complete list from the tab at the top of the page to see what other old favorites have made their returns. And while there's no reason to believe any of these will be here this time next year, it's comforting to know that Netflix hasn't given up on them completely—even if some of them do star Charles Bronson.

[Note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly attributed Jane Eyre to Jane Austen instead of Charlotte Brontë. This error has been corrected, and the writer suitably chastened. Clearly it's been a long time since my high school English classes. Thanks to SS for refreshing my memory. So, is it true Charles Bronson was a descendant of Charlotte Brontë?]

APRIL LIST

16 Acres (2012)
Ali (2001)
Amistad (1997)
Angel Heart (1987)
Amores Perros (2000)
The Artist and the Model (2013)
Bastards (2013)
Christian Finnegan: The Fun Part (2014)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Coneheads (1993)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Death Wish (1974) + sequels
Don Jon (2013)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Dragonslayer (1981)
The English Patient (1996)
The Family (2013)
A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Goebbels Experiment (2005)
The Graduate (1967)
Hannah Arendt (2012)
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)
House, M.D. (2004-2012)
Inside Man (2013- )
Jane Eyre (1944)
A League of Their Own (1992)
Leprechaun (1993)
The Living End (1992)
Milius (2013)
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Night Train to Lisbon (2013)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
Robot Chicken: Season Two (2006)
Rocky (1976) + sequels
Roger Dodger (2002)
The Running Man (1987)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Show Me Love (1998)
Spanglish (2004)
Taxi Zum Klo (1980)
A Teacher (2013)
The Terminator (1984)
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
The Turning Point (1977)
The Witnesses (2007)

Returning Titles

After Porn Ends (2010)
Alice (1988)
Barton Fink (1991) - Review
Braveheart (1995)
Chinatown (1974) - Review
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
How Much Do You Love Me? (2007)
Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
Jumanji (1995)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Mean Girls (2004)
My Bodyguard (1980)
The Naked Gun 2-1/2 (1991)
The Odd Couple (1968)
The River's Edge (1957)
Secret Things (2002)
Sherman's March (1986)
There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)
Titanic (1997)
 

2 comments:

frasierdenied said...

I love Paradise Alley! Thanks for piling some choice picks on my queue, sir!

David Speranza said...

Happy to help, as always. Thanks for checking in!