With the growing popularity of Netflix instant streaming in the U.S. and its most recent arrival into Canada, we at Row Three would like to highlight some of the great choices available at the press of a button.
Dragonslayer (Matthew Robbins)
Disney’s bloodiest, ickiest, smartest fantasy comes in the cult 80s fantasy, Dragonslayer. In which Ralph Richardson, playing the original Gandalf, and his cocky apprentice Galen do battle with the nastiest and most frightening dragon ever committed to the big screen. A fable about the loss of the old guard (magic) replaced by the rise of the new (Christianity), it is not so lamenting about it as J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) or Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy II). Yet, it is not shy about the sacrifices to be made, and how others will seize upon those heroic deeds to grab their own power. A surprisingly mature work (and also the only Disney effort to have a split-second shot of young breasts) that is very worth seeking out in the gorgeous HD stream offered by netflix, that maximizes the Welsh and Scottish cinematography, showcases the state-of-the-art Go-Motion technology to fully realize a live-action dragon, and shows of a very young Peter MacNicol’s gossamer blonde curls. A true gem.
Starman (John Carpenter)
On the surface, John Carpenter’s movie is pretty innocuous stuff: an alien (Bridges) lands on earth and takes the form of a woman’s dead husband and then forces her to drive him to Arizona where he’s going to get picked up by his alien buddies. I’m unsure who the target audience was at the time this was originally released but it’s a pretty bland little picture featuring Jeff Bridges as the alien (Starman) and the great Karen Allen as the woman driving him to Arizona (Jenny). There are some great moments (like the one in the dinner when she tries to run away but can’t face leaving Starman alone halfway to his destination) but for the most part, it’s pretty boring stuff – until the alien/human sex. Here’s Carpenter at his best: infusing the story with the horrific idea that this woman not only had sex with an alien but is carrying what appears to be the new messiah. The characters go through this as if it’s no big deal and this freaked me out more than the idea that Jenny had sex with an alien. Twisted.
The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges)
It’s pretty tough to choose a favorite Preston Sturges film – his output as writer/director was remarkably consistent and often brilliant. But I always come back to The Lady Eve, which sparkles so brightly I have to go watch it (or bits of it, just to get my fix) every few months. Barbara Stanwyck is Jean, daughter of a card sharp (Charles Coburn) who’s none too dull herself, but finds herself falling for one of her father’s marks, the heir apparent to a fortune in pale ale (played by Henry Fonda). When Charlie finds out who Jean really is, he drops her, but she swears an elaborate revenge that only begins with making him fall for the Lady Eve Sidwich, an alter-ego Jean takes on just for the occasion. Stanwyck is always incredible to watch, with just the right combination of street smarts and class, and being surrounded by Sturges’ strong stock company (including William Demarest at his most memorable as Charlie’s uncouth valet) only makes her stronger. The film is full of tiny moments of delicious humor, much of it far more absurd than you’d expect, and a surprising amount of warmth. It’s not got the depth of Sullivan’s Travels, perhaps, but it sure does put a giant smile on my face. Oh, plus I want Babs’ wardrobe SO BADLY.