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. Muscle Shoals (iTunes)
A rather underrated music documentary in yet another year chock full of them, Muscle Shoals looks at a city (from which the title is derived) in Alabama, a small village located on the banks of the Tennessee River. A rather unassuming locale, the influence it has had on the musical landscape is impossible to quantify. Named the Singing River by Native Americans, Muscle Shoals has been the inspiration sonically for musical acts as varied as names like Aretha Franklin to Percy Sledge, producing legendary American music classics like “I’ll Take You There” and “Mustang Sally.” Featuring new interviews with men and women who performed and recorded there, the film is a poetic look at one of the most important places in music history. A welcome companion to a film like Sound City, Muscle Shoals is a great and lively piece of work all its own.
4. The Bugs Bunny/ Road Runner Movie (Warner Archive Instant)
A welcome bit of counter-programming this October, one of the greatest bits of animation you could ever hope of watching is currently available to stream on The Warner Archive’s streaming service. Not itself a singular narrative or some new collection of cartoons, this brilliant look at the WB animated canon features two halves, the first of which features over ten short animated classics ranging from Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2th Century to Ali Baba Bunny, all while Bugs Bunny discusses things like his “fathers” and the bad guys he’s had to try and take care of. The final half? Well that’s a bit more anarchic. A compilation of Road Runner and Wile E Coyote gags, the film itself is both a breathtaking meditation on the influence of WB’s animation and the influences the studio has taken from, as well as proving these shorts to be some of the most exciting and groundbreaking bits of cinema ever crafted.
3. Five Films From Tod Browning (TCM; Saturday starting at 8pm EST)
Us here at The CriterionCast have been rather clear about our love and affinity for the films of Tod Browning. However, despite his most well known film, Dracula, he’s a director that has seen his name become something of a forgotten cult icon. That said, TCM is about to hopefully change that for many people. This Saturday, the network will be airing five films from the legendary filmmaker, including a pair of the director’s true masterpieces. Bookended by two of his best films, Freaks and London After Midnight, the middle pictures aren’t slouches either. Including Mark Of The Vampire, The Devil Doll and Miracles For Sale, the films are just a brief glimpse into the legendary canon of one of cinema’s greatest horror auteurs. Come for a film like Freaks, but please, if you know what’s good for you, stay for the masterpiece that is London After Midnight.
2. Maniac (Netflix)
There really aren’t many films quite like Maniac. A new remake of a gritty ‘80s thriller, this Elijah Wood-starring revamp is told almost entirely through first person, and while the premise is rather simplistic (a man’s suppressed desires come to the forefront in the form of various murders growing even stronger as he meets a young artist), it’s not only a shockingly smart film, but it’s one of the most intense experiences you’ll have this year. Brutal, visceral and unflinching, director Franck Khalfoun crafts a vicious film that never shies away from the percussive violence happening on screen. The first person POV is window dressing, really, as it feels like nothing more than a vehicle to even more embed the viewer into the twisted mind of this lead character. A film that will most certainly turn off viewers of all types, this is an unforgettable motion picture that may not add up to much come the film’s ending, but will be unlike any experience you’ve had watching a film all year.
1. A Band Called Death (Netflix)
Bookending this list are two music documentaries, and while Muscle Shoals is a far more stayed and lyrical a documentary, the new punk rock documentary A Band Called Death is one of 2013’s most exciting and insightful documentaries yet. The film is a deeply enthralling look at a Detroit punk rock trio, but not just any punk rock outfit. Before The Ramones, before punk truly became punk, there was Death. An all black trio of punk rockers, this proto-punk trio hit with music unlike anyone had ever heard in the 1970s, and yet has subsequently fallen into obscurity. However, with the recent re-discovery of their music thanks to record collectors and journalists, and now this documentary, the band is not only working on new music, but they are finally getting their day in the spotlight. True pioneers of the art, the film is an energetic and life-affirming look at musical legends who passed on a major label deal to keep their soul. And thankfully, that soul is felt from the first frame here, up until the final shot. A real gem of a film.