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. The Navigator (Fandor)
Easily the best film on this list, Buster Keaton’s masterpiece sits at number five simply because it’s one that most people have likely seen. And if not, now is as good a time to catch up on it as Fandor has added it to their ever growing slate of streamable classics. One of Keaton’s most interesting and visually impressive pictures, the film is directed by Keaton and co-helmer Donald Crisp, and tells the story of one of Keaton’s many wealthy leads as he attempts to woo a beautiful young girl. One of Keaton’s biggest box office triumphs, the film is also one of his most aesthetically interesting, featuring some really interesting photography, enough laughs to fill ten films of this length, and some of the most interesting action direction you’ll see in all of silent comedic cinema. With genuinely thrilling gags, this meditation on man vs. machine is arguably Buster Keaton’s biggest cinematic triumph. And Fandor’s transfer is utterly stunning.
4. Dredd (Netflix)
While comparisons to a film like The Raid are as often mentioned with this action film as its failure at the box office, Pete Travis’ Dredd stands on its own as one of last year’s greatest action films, that you very likely missed. A new take on the cult comic book icon, the film finds our hero and his new partner stuck inside a housing project with an evil drug kingpin and her henchmen all out to get them a piece of the masked cop. With a definitive performance from beloved character actor Karl Urban and enough style to send any experienced action film fan to the hospital with aesthetic whiplash, this is a superb action film that is full throttle, beautifully made, and features enough superb acting turns to be among the best the genre has given us in quite some time.
3. I Declare War (VOD, iTunes)
Now, with its theatrical release this weekend, we’ll have more about this film come Friday (this writer will have a rather over the moon review come Friday), but since its available to watch this very second, its more than deserving of all the publicity it can get. The film tells the story of a group of 13-year old kids who, one day, decide to play a game of War. However, with brimming imaginations and all the gusto they can muster, the film takes a decidedly realistic turn as the game becomes more and more real. Giving an insight into the darkest parts of human nature and what it’s like to be a young kid, the film is a comedy at heart, but has more than enough real human truth behind its narrative to become something of a coming of age classic. Very much inspired by ‘80s era coming of age films, I Declare War stands strong against films like Stand By Me as a heartbreakingly raw take on growing up in today’s world. It’s the best new release film you’ll watch all weekend.
2. The Devil’s Eye (Hulu Plus)
Not as well known for his comedies as he is for his searing and introspective dramas, Criterion has added yet another comedy from the legendary Ingmar Bergman, this time entitled The Devil’s Eye. Following the story of Don Juan who, at the behest of Satan himself, tries to seduce a vicar’s daughter who is so pure that her purity has given the devil a sty in his eye, the film is an interesting comedy of manners about the power of love and seduction. With as inventive an opening act as you’ll find in any of Bergman’s many comedies, the film is structured in an interesting way (won’t spoil too much), and the black and white photography here really pops with Criterion’s HD transfer. Now, the plot itself is a little lacking, and this film is admittedly a minor Bergman work, even with regards to his comedy pictures, but what turns this into a must see feature is the aforementioned opening act (any of the scenes in Hell, really), and the performances led by the likes of Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson and Stig Jarrel. Everyone here turns in a really great performance, particularly Andersson who is as beautiful and enthralling as you’ll ever see her. Kulle is an interesting actor as well, a man who is likely best known to audiences for his work in Bergman’s comedies like the equally underrated All These Women. A funny film with more than a tad bit of heart, this is the type of Bergman picture that you imagine someone like a young Woody Allen taking as inspiration. Oddly enough, this feels in many ways like an early Woody Allen film, fitting perfectly in the mold of a Love And Death style farce. Truly a wonder, this film.
1. Redes (Hulu Plus)
One of the final films to be added from the recent rush of eight features restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, Criterion’s Hulu Plus page now has Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gomez Muriel’s classic drama, Redes, available to stream on their website. A breezy, just a tad over hour long drama looking at a group of poor fishermen in Alvarado off the Gulf Coast of Mexico, Zinnemann and Gomez Muriel craft here a thrilling masterpiece that seemingly blends the Soviet-style propaganda of Potemkin that inspired its creation and the neo-realism of, say, Rossellini, that it would later become an inspiration for. Shot in stunning black and white photography, the new restoration is an absolute revelation, and while a film like Touki Bouki or The Housemaid have long been championed as a masterpiece of cinema, Redes has, for all intents and purposes, been a forgotten film that is mentioned only in passing, if ever. Through the World Cinema Foundation, Criterion’s Hulu Plus channel has become the single greatest collection of streamable classics, adding a real depth to an already dense list of masterpieces from known entities like Bergman and Godard. These extremely rare classics, including a film like Law Of The Border, a film that itself is as good a film as you’ll ever see, Criterion needs to give us a home video release of these films as soon as they possibly can. As soon as physically possible, for this is too great a goldmine to simply relegate to a Hulu channel. This needs a home video release with as much pomp and circumstance as humanly imaginable.