"Bad 25" (2012)
What It's About: A tribute to Michael Jackson and his music, the Spike Lee-directed "Bad 25" documents the making of the artist's 1987 album Bad, the fifth best-selling record of all time, on the 25th anniversary of its release. (The #1 best selling album? Thriller.) The film sets up the character and story of Jackson -- his personal life and success leading up to the creation of the titular album -- then launches into proving its thesis that Bad was, in many ways, the finest work this artist ever created. The production of each track forms the documentary's backbone, and are examined through taped recording sessions, vintage interviews, and discussions with collaborators and fans that include Stevie Wonder, Martin Scorsese (who directed the video for the "Bad" single), Mariah Carey, Kanye West, ?uestlove, and... Justin Bieber?
Why You Should Stream It: Lee is no stranger to Jackson, having directed two of his music videos: 1996's "They Don't Care About Us" and "This Is It" in 2009. And the filmmaker's regard for the superstar is clear here, his compilation of footage and voices rendering an insightful and engaging portrait. Furthermore, the technical aspects of the documentary are top-notch, the overlap of music with discussion a particular feat as it creates a sense of behind-the-scenes commentary. Our review out of the 2012 Venice Film Festival notes, "as a making-of documentary, it's fascinating, warm and immensely watchable stuff, and fans of both Jackson and pop music in general will surely eat the film up." The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week, but if you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy, now you can watch it online as well.
Where It's Available: YouTube
Our Picks from the Criterion Collection
"The Brood" (1979) and "Scanners" (1981)
What They're About: Two early sci-fi horror films from writer-director David Cronenberg that set the stage for much of his work to come. In "The Brood," the mentally disturbed Nola (Samantha Eggar), engaged in an embittered custody battle with ex-husband Frank (Art Hindle), begins psychotherapy with the renowned Dr. Raglan (Oliver Reed). The doctor is known for a therapy technique called "psychoplasmics," in which patients rid themselves of mental disturbances through physiological changes. Soon after the sessions begin, a number of Nola's acquaintances are murdered by what appear to be children, eventually targeting Nola's daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds). In "Scanners," the titular subjects are humans with telepathic and telekinetic powers that are being targeted by the ConSec corporation that, while claiming to be serving the public good, actually intends to use the powerful beings for the personal gain of its executives. When Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), an extremely powerful scanner whose powers have necessitated his withdrawal from society, is abducted by ConSec agents, officials decide to use their prisoner to infiltrate the secretive scanner community and take down its renegade leader, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside).
Why You Should Stream Them: Absorbing, disturbing, and well made, featuring a victorious combination of sympathetic characters and twisty plots punctuated by moments of sheer terror, these two pictures are a study in successful low-budget filmmaking. The release of "The Brood" was surrounded by controversy, with many exhibitors requiring significant edits and critics reading the film as a misogynistic allegory for the danger of feminine power and the anxiety surrounding the women's liberation movement. Whether or not that was the director's intent at the time of its production, a contemporary viewing of the film should offer a whole new set of interpretations and reactions. "Scanners," on the other hand, seen as Cronenberg's most conventional movie at the time of its debut, received less direct censure and far less praise. But until the release of 1987's "The Fly," it was his highest grossing film, and received Saturn Awards for Best International Film and Best Makeup, and a nomination for Best Special Effects. Moreover, its initial reception as a schlocky C-movie has since been largely revised, making it a legacy in the stable of '80s horror flicks and raising its popularity enough to spawn two sequels and two spin-offs (though none of these involved Cronenberg).
Where They're Available: iTunes (The Brood / Scanners)
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.
"The Artist is Present"
"Bullet to the Head"
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"
"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"
"The House I Live In"
"The People vs. Larry Flynt"
"The Quick and the Dead"
"The Truman Show"