Every day, more and more films are added to the various streaming services out there, ranging from Netflix to YouTube, and are hitting the airwaves via movie-centric networks like TCM. Therefore, sifting through all of these pictures can be a tedious and often times confounding or difficult ordeal. But, that’s why we’re here. Every week, Joshua brings you five films to put at the top of your queue, add to your playlist, or grab off of VOD to make your weekend a little more eventful. Here is this week’s top five, in this week’s Armchair Vacation.
5. Tales From Gimli Hospital (Fandor)
There truly are no other filmmakers around quite like director Guy Maddin. A current member of The Criterion Collection for his film Brand Upon The Brain, the filmmaker has been hard at work creating brazenly off beat feature length motion pictures since his 1989 debut feature, Tales From Gimli Hospital. Now available to stream for Fandor subscribers, the film touches on many things that Maddin has since become best known for, particularly the film’s affinity for silent films from directors like Fritz Lang, and is one of the more thrilling debuts to come from the late ‘80s-early ‘90s. An entirely different style of low-budget debut than those that came from US directors (Maddin is a rather vocal native of our neighbors to the north, Canada), the film is an experiment at heart, and is a thrilling little picture that blends beautiful black and white photography with Bunuel-esque surrealism into something entirely singular. Most easily comparable to the types of films David Lynch was releasing early in his career, even that comparison doesn’t do this picture justice, as its completely and utterly its own entity. This is a definitive Maddin picture, and one of the more auspicious debuts from an era chock full of them.
4. Miami Connection (Netflix)
This is the definition of a weekend watch. Quite possibly one of the most entertaining additions to Netflix’s streaming lineup in quite some time, this disturbingly fun action film follows the tale of a band named Dragon Sound (amazing, I know), who have to put an end to a roving gang of motorcycle-driving ninjas with a love for pushing drugs in Miami. Toss in some interesting action sequences and a few mind blowingly catchy songs, and you have something close to what is possibly one of the most fun “bad” films ever made. The film itself preaches, almost to a fault, about pure and unflinching positivity, and while the line readings are admittedly silly and as flat as anything you’ll hear, the film is most interesting as a rather furious anti-violence meditation of sorts. The final act is an absolute cartoon, but in live action form, and while it’s obviously over the top, it’s also really entertaining and the perfect type of action film to toss on with a few friends, a few ice cold beverages and some food, all with the plan of having one of the best viewing experiences you’ll have in a very long time. Seriously, you’ll never see something like it again.
3. The Searchers (TCM; Saturday, 8pm)
There are very few films that are seen as appointment viewing in today’s DVR age. However, one film that will make you neglect the back log of shows and movies you have queued up to watch to watch a feature as it airs is John Ford’s masterpiece, The Searchers. Arguably the greatest Western of all time (Sight And Sound voted as such by putting it leaps and bounds ahead of any other film from the genre on their recent greatest films list), TCM will be airing the film Saturday night, and it’s must watch TV. One of the darkest and most brooding of all of Ford’s Westerns, it’s also one of Ford’s prettiest and still most vital. Featuring a career defining performance from John Wayne and some genre-defining photography, The Searchers is the most effective and thought provoking film from one of this nation’s greatest film artists. A breathtaking meditation on violence and the creation of community in the West, this film is a perfectly distilled John Ford film, from the sweeping vistas to the pertinent themes, and it’s arguably the most influential western with regards to today’s take on the genre. A harbinger of the anti-westerns that would rise just a decade or so later, there are truly not enough superlatives that could be launched at the greatest Western of all time, The Searchers.
2. Marketa Lazarova (Hulu Plus)
We have a review of the new Criterion Blu-ray already on the site here, so I’ll stay short here, but I’ll echo a few things. This all time great Czech film is a tough nut to crack, but it’s as pretty a nut as one could ever imagine being thrown one’s way. An odd mixture of Herzogian man vs. nature meditating and Bela Tarr naturalism with a healthy dash of Lychian surrealism, Marketa Lazarova is an obtuse meditation on the battle between paganism and organized religion, but it’s more than rewarding. Inarguably one of the most brooding and beautiful films ever made, every frame of this film could be blown up and put in the highest of high art museums, as stand up masterpieces of photography. Narratively dense and based on a presumably unfilmable novel, Marketa Lazarova is simply one of the greatest films of all time, and easily the best film you’ve never seen. Rewarding for multiple viewings, I myself am going on a third watch, and after every single one, a new door is thrown open. Criterion has added it to their Hulu page, so make sure you block out 180-ish minutes for this thrilling horror masterwork.
1. Rolling Thunder (Netflix)
Long seen as a hard to find gem from an era chock full of interesting revenge thrillers, Rolling Thunder is now not only available in a brand new Blu-ray, but it’s also now streamable on Netflix for subscribers. A genuinely fantastic film (Gene Siskel originally had the film in his ten best list for 1977), the film comes to us from director John Flynn, but it’s best known for having a top notch thriller script from writer Paul Schrader. Following the story of a returning war vet who, upon returning, is accosted by a gang only to have his family murdered for a collection of silver dollars. Hell bent on revenge, Charles Rane (William Devane) gets out of the hospital and seeks out his family’s killers, to give them a taste of their own medicine. With one of the greatest trailers of all time, this film has been a rather difficult one to find until recently, but thankfully, the world can now fully bask in the glory that is one of the many great pieces of work from writer Paul Schrader. With great performances and some brooding direction to boot, this is just a genuinely great revenge picture, with a sense of anger not found in many films today. A haunting look at the impact of violence on man, this is the most must watch film this weekend.