Welcome back streamers. We trust you had a good July 4th weekend and the hangover has finally subsided. We also assume you’ve gotten over the overlong, tonal headache that was “The Lone Ranger,” and now you’re debating if you should do the same with “Pacific Rim” or “Grown Ups 2.” Both reviews suggest that you should just stay home, which is good for us because we have lots of suggestions for you streaming this weekend. We’ve got an alternate Guillermo del Toro movie you could watch and instead of witnessing Adam Sandler fart on Salma Hayek, you could revisit arguably his best movie, thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson. We’ve also got a Michael Cera indie for you that’s hitting both theaters and VOD this weekend (but hey, maybe you can just watch it out of the comfort of your own home if it’s not playing in your town) and some classic gems, including some jewels from the Criterion archive not yet released on DVD. OK, let’s get to it.
“Hard Times” (1975)
What It's About: A depression era street fighter (Charles Bronson) joins with a shady promoter (James Coburn) of no-holds-barred street boxing bouts in New Orleans.
Why You Should Stream It: For one because it’s the debut film of director Walter Hill (“The Warriors,” “Driver,” “48 Hrs”), who also wrote the screenplay (Hill, was also a hell of a writer penning scripts for “The Getaway," the underrated Paul Newman flick, "The Drowning Pool," and Ridley Scott's first "Alien" movie). Secondly, it’s a little gem of a forgotten movie that hasn’t been available on DVD for years (though yes, like anything, bootlegs and crappy skeletal versions do exist). Lastly, it’s a pretty terrific, simple, but effective movie about a mysterious drifter who ghosts into town and then quickly ghosts out. But not before making a lot of money for James Coburn’s shifty, money-grubbing manager and well, kind of making some friends in the process. Co-starring Jill Ireland as an object of affection, excellent character actor Strother Martin as a fight associate that joins the team and Michael McGuire as a wealthy businessman and rival, like many of Hill’s best screenplays, not a lot of dialogue is necessary. At least not from the film’s mostly taciturn lead, Charles Bronson, who puts in a confident and cool, but not cocky performance that really sells this mystery drifter who suddenly appears on the scene and takes out all the major players. If you’re at all interested in Hill’s classics, this one is required viewing.
Where It's Available: iTunes, AmazonInstant, and the entire thing for free on Crackle.
"Orange Is The New Black" (2013)
What It's About: Based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, Taylor Schilling stars as Piper Chapman, a young woman who winds up in prison after getting caught carrying a suitcase of drug money for her lover and drug smuggler, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). Jason Biggs (remember him?) is also on board, playing the role of Larry, Piper’s fiancé who is waiting for her on the outside.
Why You Should Stream It: Well, for all the shows Netflix has debuted this year, it’s the first one to get renewed before the a single episode has aired. Secondly, if you’re a fan of “Weeds” you should might be pleased to know that producer Jenji Kohan is also behind this one, and thirdly, the trailer promises a pretty fascinating blend of comedy and drama that us intrigued to at least stream a couple of episodes this weekend, to test the waters. But don’t just take our word for it, reviews have mostly been ecstatic. Huffington Post called it “one of the best new programs of the year,” San Franciso Chronicle said it’s “a new definition of television excellence” with The Hollywood Reporter noting “it constantly offers more than you expect,” with Entertainment Weekly concluding: “It's very funny and occasionally quite moving, with a crackerjack cast and provocative insights into the way that race and power and magical chickens function in the penal system.” It’s certainly one of the more original concepts to the the small screen this summer and it might be the perfect thing to escape into an air-conditioned room with for a few hours.
Where It's Available: Netflix
"Crystal Fairy" (2013)
What It's About: A young, obnoxious American named Jamie (Michael Cera) travels to Chile, and joins a couple of friends on a quest to trip balls on the fabled hallucinogen known as the San Pedro cactus. But his journey is interrupted by the titular free spirit Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman), who tags along for the ride, bringing her own unique, Earthly charms with her.
Why You Should Stream It: For anyone who thinks that Michael Cera can only play riffs on George Micheal Bluth, he’s working hard to turn that idea around, and doing so with the help of “The Maid” director Sebastian Silva, with whom he’s collaborated on two projects. Next month will perhaps see the biggest metamorphosis of Cera when he stars in the Silva-directed thriller “Magic Magic,” which is unfortunately going straight-to-DVD. But coming ahead of that is his first collaboration with the filmmaker, “Crystal Fairy,” and it finds the actor morphing his trademark awkwardness into something a bit more unsympathetic and darker than we’re used to seeing. But real highlight of the film might just be Hoffman, whose very open (and sometimes very naked) turn had many talking out of Sundance. It’s a tough part, one that requires her to appear a bit unflattering (let’s just say she earns the nickname Crystal Hairy) but the actress reportedly takes it on with gusto, lead the film to some surprisingly poignant places. Essentially, the film presents some ambitious young actors, rolling the dice with an arthouse filmmaker on a zany concept and seeing how it all plays out, and that should be enough to get you to click.
Where It's Available: TMC VOD