By Emma Bernstein | The Playlist August 23, 2013 at 5:25PM
"The Frozen Ground" (2013)
What It's About: Desperately searching for a serial killer, Alaska state trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) teams with the only victim to escape— a stripper and prostitute named Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens)—in hopes that her witness will lead him to closer the murderous man (John Cusack). Radha Mitchell, Kurt Fuller and Kevin Dunn co-star.
Why You Should Stream It: Based on a true story, mystery thriller "The Frozen Ground" sees first-time director Scott Walker shedding the genre's commonly used subjective cinematography and lurid special effects in favor of an unadorned and straightforward consideration of psychopathy. Cage shows off a toned-down version of the wigged madman he has channeled of late, but it is the fairly strong Cusack, playing a naturally shy man brimming with rage and confusion (a mirror of the frigid, lifeless setting) that helps bring believability and pathos to the narrative. And Hudgens, continuing to cast off the squeaky clean Disney mantle, does her part as well: our reviews notes her standing as the lone pillar of humanity here, "her character's dimensions suggesting a world outside of the lurid details of this case." "The Frozen Ground" arrives in theaters and on VOD today.
Where It's Available: Cable on Demand, VUDU
"A Single Shot" (2013)
What It's About: Recently abandoned by his wife (Kelly Reilly) and young son, outdoorsman John Moon (Sam Rockwell) accidentally kills a young girl while hunting in the local West Virginia woodlands. The mistake is magnified when Moon lifts a strongbox full of money off the corpse, inciting a nail-biting game of cat-and-mouse with a gang of hardened criminals. All this while trying to settle a divorce, welcome home a good friend (Jeffrey Wright), and navigate his guilt alone. Poor hunter. William H. Macy, Jason Isaacs, Joe Anderson, Ophelia Lovibond, and Ted Levine co-star.
Why You Should Stream It: Directed by David M. Rosenthal and written by Matthew F. Jones (also the author of the source novel), "A Single Shot" is a welcome sight after many, many months of casting changes delayed production. Despite this bumpy start, it seems the chips fell well, as the team of actors featured here is often quite stellar. Macy's quirky lawyer and Wright's deceitful drunk are well executed and charming in a type-heavy sort of way, but Rockwell shines with noteworthy talent. Our review calls his performance "impressive in its physicality: he looks and feels the part of the practiced hunter." And even if a heavy-handed score occasionally overshadows it, the low-lit photography is also undoubtedly impressive, expertly conveying the haziness of Moon's bleak world. "A Single Shot" will be in theaters September 20th.
Where It's Available: Cable on Demand, VUDU
"Jayne Mansfield's Car" (2013)
What It's About: Set across a few days in 1969, the film tells the story of an Alabama family who learn that their bloodline spills over to England, with a funeral bringing the two sides of the clan together tumultuously.
Why You Should Stream It: Perhaps making a nice movie to serve as a double bill with this week's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," the latest effort from writer/director Billy Bob Thornton serves up an ensemble mix of drama and comedy that's becoming rarer and rarer these days. He stars in the flick along with a sprawling cast that includes John Hurt, Frances O'Connor, Ray Stevenson, Kevin Bacon and Robert Patrick, with everyone giving—as we noted in our review from Berlin—"unshowily enjoyable" performances. It's nice opportunity to see a bunch of character actors of this calibre soak up in a Southern story that rolls like a Sunday afternoon breeze.
Where It's Available: iTunes
Criterion Hulu Plus Pick
We like Criterion a lot, but what we love is finding hard to find, not-readily-available-on-DVD movies. And so the Criterion hub on Hulu Plus is pretty awesome. Their archive has approximately 225 movies that will eventually come out on the Criterion Collection on DVD, but currently, it's just a rather incredible, early sneak peek treasure trove of what's to come. Each week we single out a film that we think you should see.
"The Housemaid" (1960), "Touki Bouki" (1973), and other selections from Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation
What They're About: The World Cinema Foundation, established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, preserves and restores films from around the world, principally from countries which lack the necessary financial and technical resources to do so themselves. This week, Hulu Plus is showcasing eight titles that were recently restored by the non-profit organization, and have never before been available in the United States. In Korean director Kim Ki-young's "The Housemaid," a husband's not-so-covert affair with his domestic servant gives rise to a household teeming with bitterness, conspiracy, and vengeance. Meanwhile, a young couple goes to great lengths to escape the alienation and monotony of their lives in Dakar, hoping to begin anew in Paris in the Senegalese film "Touki Bouki" (Wolof for "Journey of the Hyenas"), directed by Djibril Diop. Also included in this slate are "Law of the Border," "Dry Summer," "Trances," "A River Called Titas," "Revenge," and "Redes."
Why You Should Stream Them: Refurbished by the WCF in 2008, the first in Kim's trilogy of so-called "Housemaid films" is a sexy, taut, well-acted thriller that is as distressing as it is pleasurable, much like the indecent relationship at its center. Bringing forth a deeply personal narrative, "The Housemaid" prods at the obsessive, rebellious, and selfish tendencies of human nature, to great and lasting effect. "Touki Bouki" (also restored in 2008) demonstrates influences of the French New Wave, its dissonant scoring, chaotic cinematography, and fast-paced editing atypical of African filmmaking. The picture won the International Critics Award at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, and has since received accolades in various film journals, but never managed to gain much traction with the larger public; that it's now more widely available is surely a coup for African film and cinephiles alike. Although we centered on our favorite picks from the compilation, Scorsese—a notorious cinema buff—rarely hands out a bad recommendation, and we'd suggest you give them all a shot. You can also check out the director's introduction to these films in the video below.
Where They're Available: Hulu Plus (and free for nonsubscribers through August 24)
"Free Angela and All Political Prisoners"
"No One Lives"
"No Place on Earth"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"
"This is Martin Bonner"
"This is Spinal Tap"