Here are the highlights of this week’s DVD and Netflix Instant releases. I’ve only included the ones that I chose as “picks of the week”; you can click over to Row Three to see everything – including a disheartening number of Netflix Instant expirations. Looks like the expiring Starz contract is being felt quite hard this month.
New Release Pick of the Week
Martha Marcy May Marlene
I didn’t make it out to see the Sundance darling psychological thriller about a woman struggling after leaving a cult, and I know it inspired some heated debates on the Cinecast, but I’m definitely still very interested in checking it out. Not only to see what the Olsen twins’ little sister can do (apparently a lot), but anytime John Hawkes is on screen seems like a good thing to me.
2011 USA. Director: Sean Durkin. Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes.
Other New Releases
Catalog Pick of the Week
Anatomy of a Murder: Criterion Collection
I often throw Criterion releases up here out of habit, because it’s usually worthwhile trusting Criterion, but in this case, I can actually wholeheartedly recommend this film – one of the best courtroom dramas ever made, with James Stewart going toe-to-toe with George C. Scott over a murder case with a self-defense plea. Oh yeah, there’s rape in there, too. Director Preminger was known for pushing the Hays Code buttons, and this is no different. Some great performances all around backed up by a fantastic Duke Ellington jazz score.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott.
Other Catalog Releases
Instant Watch Picks of the Week
Pretty slow week for new Instant Watches, so you might want to drop down and get in some of the expiring ones before they, well, expire. There’s a bunch down there that are well worth watching.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
I wasn’t too big a fan of this film (currently Brazil’s number one box office hit) when I saw it, but I think it would improve for me on rewatch. The all-out action I was expecting based on descriptions of the first Elite Squad film, which I still haven’t seen, is muted here, as the film focuses in on corruption in the police force. It still has its moments of quick-cut intensity, but the measured parts of the film probably deserve more credit than I originally gave them.
2010 Brazil. Director: José Padilha. Starring: Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, André Ramiro
There’s no comparison between this film and the fantastic and extremely literary novel it’s based on, but that’s not how we judge movies, and after rewatching this not too long ago, I appreciated it for what it is on its own. Its dual story between academics and the Victorian poets they study doesn’t balance quite as well as it should, but Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam impress enough to overcome the rather bland turns by Paltrow and Eckhart.
2002 USA. Director: Neil LaBute. Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle.
Expiring Picks of the Week
Looks like we’re feeling the heat of Starz! departure from Netflix this month, as a whole bunch of stuff expires on the 29th, most of it Starz! content. There are also a bunch leaving on March 1st, so keep an eye out.
The Lady Eve (expires 2/28)
One of the few films I can rewatch over and over again (and easily my favorite of Preston Sturges’ comedies); I simply never get tired of Barbara Stanwyck’s dual performance as card sharp Jean and her refined alter-ego Eve Sidwich. Add in a hapless Henry Fonda, a cunning Charles Coburn, a suspicious William Demarest, and an exasperated Eugene Pallette, and more, and you’ve got one of the finest casts in classic comedy all at the height of their powers, and with a script to match them.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, William Demarest, Eugene Pallette, Eric Blore.
Bedazzled (expires 2/28)
Not to be confused with the terrible remake with Brendan Fraser, the original Bedazzled is a delightful slice out of London’s Swinging Sixties, with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook making a hilarious dry comedy team as the put-upon everyman Stanley and the Devil who gives him a Faustian bargain to get the woman of his dreams. Director Stanley Donen had a number of finest hours, and this is definitely one of them.
1967 UK. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch.
In the Mood for Love (expires 2/29)
Director Wong Kar Wai has made a number of gorgeous-looking, wistfully romantic films, and none more so than this quiet tale of forbidden love between two people in adjoining apartments who gradually spend more and more time together while their respective spouses are away from home for long periods of time. It’s one of the most understated romances ever, so subtle at first it’s easy to miss what’s going on. But it’s achingly real and true. One of those films that when you watch it, you know it’s going to be with you for a long time.
2000 Hong Kong. Director: Wong Kar Wai. Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ping Lam Siu, Tung Cho ‘Joe’ Cheung, Rebecca Pan.
Party Down (expires 2/29)
You might not expect Starz! to have hosted one of the best sitcoms on TV, but there it is. Underseen and canceled too soon, Party Down‘s milieu of a Hollywood catering company filled with managers dreaming of bigger things and aspiring actors waiting for the next big thing is ripe for comedy, and showrunner Rob Thomas (of Veronica Mars) has the writing and cast to pull it off. Definitely check it out before it expires.
2009-2010 USA. Creator: Rob Thomas. Starring: Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Ryan Hansen,Martin Starr, Megan Mullally, Jane Lynch, Kristen Bell.
Black Snake Moan (expires 3/1)
A blues-singing black man chains up a nubile white girl to prevent her from satisfying her nymphomaniac urges. Sounds like prime material for an exploitation film, right? Yet while this film definitely skirts those waters, it’s much, much better than you’d expect given the premise. It’s Southern Gothic through and through, but with a depth of character, emotion, and even story that sets it apart as one of the best surprises of its year.
2006 USA. Director: Craig Brewer. Starring: Christina Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Cothran Jr.