By Emma Bernstein | The Playlist June 14, 2013 at 2:49PM
"Neighboring Sounds" (2012)
What It's About: Released in only three theaters in the United States, "Neighboring Sounds" is a film you probably didn’t have the chance to see. Luckily, the well-received Brazilian feature from Kleber Mendonca Filho is now in wide release on the Internet. A sizable ensemble cast that never singles out a true lead grounds a slice of life story set in the city of Recife. As a private security detail attempts to staunch a series of burglaries in a prosperous seaside neighborhood, scenes of its interactions with the diverse families that populate the area offer a vibrant portrait of modern day Brazil.
Why You Should Stream It: The various characters are juxtaposed in original and exciting ways, the definition of their personalities and behaviors imbuing the story with a thrilling plausibility. Surrealist aesthetics that punctuate many of the sequences provide the narrative with a subjectivity that lends the film similar integrity and appeal. Our review out of the Vancouver International Film Festival praised the film as it "uses the tools of cinema to view life, and never feels the need to impose a reason other than the joy of watching it unfold unencumbered by the strictures of narrative." Furthermore, voted as one of the world’s top 10 movies of 2012 by A.O. Scott, and winner of the Best Brazilian Film prize at the Sao Paolo International Film Festival the same year, Filho's debut feature is not one you'll want to miss.
Where It's Available iTunes, Netflix
"Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" (1958)
What It's About: A troubled socialite has a close encounter with aliens that transforms her into a giant femme fatale, and she uses the newfound size and strength to take revenge on her philandering husband and his mistress.
Why You Should Stream It: A remnant of Postwar Era Hollywood spectacles, Nathan H. Juran's "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" features a simple story augmented with excessive special effects, perfectly illustrating how the film industry competed with television. Although the retro effects may inspire more than a few giggles today, the size-changing human storyline was widely popular in the late '50s: this was the third movie to feature a protagonist that grew or shrank immensely, and the first to feature a female lead. Moreover, it remains deliciously campy, an amusing insight into the world of classic postwar science fiction films. And while the plot may be highly melodramatic and hint toward misogyny, the enormous papier-mache hands and transparent use of rear projection are just delightful in their hilarious additions to the absolutely ludicrous storyline. The film's legacy has led to its reference and allusion in numerous films and television episodes, as well as spawning two spoofs and a remake, directed by Christopher Guest and starring Daryl Hannah. With the DVDs now out of print, streaming is likely your best chance to catch this historical gem.
Where It's Available Amazon Instant, iTunes, VUDU, Warner Bros. Archive Instant
Our Pick from the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus (note this incredible archive has 200-some Criterion movies not available on DVD, or seemingly anywhere else either)
"The Cremator" (1969)
What It's About: Blackly comedic yet bizarre and chilling, "The Cremator," from director Juraj Herz, is a prime example of the Czechoslovak New Wave. This 1960s movement featured unscripted dialogue and non-professional actors, and used social commentary cloaked in absurdist humor as a means of rebelling against the Soviet regime. Set in 1930s Prague, "The Cremator" finds its titular professional slowly descending into madness, a love for his work evolving into an obsession with freeing souls from their bodies through the burning of human flesh. As the Nazi invasion grows imminent, the cremator's mania intensifies as he becomes consumed with achieving racial and, thus, spiritual purity.
Why You Should Stream It: Employing the shadowy, distorted aesthetics of the German Expressionists in conjunction with its period locale, this film calls attention to the horrors of past and present alike: the destitution and fear storming through Soviet-occupied territories in the 1960s echoes, in many ways, the sweeping propaganda and mass delusion in Nazi-occupied Europe. This highly political subject matter, combined with explicit imagery, led to a universal ban on the film following its premiere, and it remained widely unseen until after the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years later. Today, it's largely considered by regional critics to be one of the best Czech films ever made.
Where It's Available Hulu
Also Available to Stream
Despite not making our top five picks, the following films are certainly still worthy of your movie-loving attention, and are newly available via various streaming services. Links to our reviews are provided where available.
"A Good Day to Die Hard"
"Dead Man's Burden"
"Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters"
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"
"Oz the Great and Powerful"
"We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks"