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 confoundingly 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. Safety Last (Hulu)
Far and away the best film on this list, the only reason this picture isn’t #1 on this list this week is because next week, if you don’t own the Blu-ray, you’re a damned fool. Criterion has added Harold Lloyd’s masterpiece to their Hulu Plus page as part of their own going 101 Days Of Summer (which has primarily been focusing on highlighting a few films already on the page), and this is the one film that is a necessary watch this very weekend. I’ll have more on the film (read: much, much more) when the Blu-ray is reviewed on Tuesday, but what I will say right now is that another re-watch recently has confirmed it as one of the ten greatest films ever made. Awe-inspiring, thrilling, heartwarming and creatively hilarious, the film is as superb a comedy as we’ve ever seen, and it affirms the idea that Lloyd is truly the third silent comedy genius, on the same level as a Keaton or a Chaplin. The transfer is absolutely glorious, and with the summer heat getting ready to add a little stress into everyone’s lives, this should be the perfect way to cool off this weekend.
4. To Kill A Mockingbird (TCM; Sunday, 8pm)
This weekend is yet another holiday weekend, with Sunday marking this year’s Father’s Day. And in honor of that event, TCM has taken to their Essentials, Jr. series, and will be looking at a film with what many consider to be the greatest on screen father in cinema history. Robert Mulligan’s adaptation of the legendary novel To Kill A Mockingbird, the film stars Gregory Peck as the man himself, Atticus Finch, the father of a young girl and a lawyer tapped to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. A genuinely great film, the picture is one of the definitive literary adaptations in film history. Peck’s performance is absolutely breathtaking here, and now firmly 50 years old, the picture is still as lively and vital as it was on its debut night in 1963.
3. Twixt (iTunes)
Now, this is where this week’s list gets a little interesting. While director Francis Ford Coppola has seen critics alert the world about him falling off of his game over the last handful of years (including the underrated gems like Tetro and Youth Without Youth), one of the most talked about recent releases has been Coppola’s latest film, Twixt. The Val Kilmer-starring thriller got some rather mixed (but extremely loud) buzz coming out of a panel at Comic-Con in 2011, and with a live touring of the film now complete, the picture is finally available for public consumption. Trailers for the film had made the picture look nearly laughable, but Coppola’s name is still an almost instant draw, and at least this is a more interesting discussion starter than anything you’ll see in theaters this week, or likely this summer. Toss in a score from hipster darling Dan Deacon, and you have a film that will leave you in a polarized emotional state, but will at least leave you stunned. For better or for worse. Make up your own mind via iTunes.
2. End Of Watch (Netflix)
Of all the 2012 releases that got legitimately overlooked, one of the better films that very few people gave a shot was director David Ayer’s proto-found footage cop drama End Of Watch. Following the story of two extremely close partners, the film used the idea of “found footage” rather loosely, but in a way that allowed the inherently engaging narrative to really sink the hooks into the viewer. Both leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, turn in some of the best performances in their career, particularly Pena who really pairs well opposite his co-star. Their chemistry is palpable, and their narratives feel real and relatable. Dismissed as a found footage hackjob, the film is a lively action drama that is far greater than it has any right to be. Just see it. Trust me on this one.
1. Vera Cruz (YouTube)
Best known for the pair of films Kiss Me Deadly and The Dirty Dozen, director Robert Aldrich has become something of a darling for the arthouse crowd over the last handful of years. One of his least talked about projects, Vera Cruz, is currently available to stream on YouTube, and it’s possibly one of the more intriguing projects you could check out this weekend. Starring the pair of Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper, the film takes apart the standard Western genre tropes, and breathes a sense of life into this genre that would make the film feel closer to a modern adventure film than a brooding John Ford range Western. From the very opening titles, printed in a blood red font fitting of a spaghetti western, the film pairs up a ponderous Cooper and a sneering Lancaster and gives a cynical turn on a standard western premise. Following these two as they help smuggle money during the Franco-Mexican War, the film is unlike most Westerns you’ve seen. Engaging, thrilling and full of memorable moments, this is a truly great picture from an unsung master filmmaker.