What's It About: In the not-too-distant future a horrible disease is preying upon New York City's children. An entomologist (Mira Sorvino, at the height of her cuteness) and her CDC agent boyfriend (Jeremy Northam) create a genetic hybrid called the Judas Breed, a crabby-looking bug thingee, that's sent out to kill the cockroaches that are distributing the disease. These abominations were supposed to die off in three months, but three years later they're discovered in the subways of Manhattan. And what's more - they've evolved.
Why You Should Stream It: This was Guillermo del Toro's first studio movie, which didn't exactly have the easiest time getting to the big screen (it started off as a short that was part of an anthology, at one point Steven Soderbergh volunteered a completely new script that was rejected outright). Still, all the hallmarks of a del Toro movie are present and accounted for -- lots of insect imagery, underground tunnels, moody lighting, Catholic iconography, things floating in jars, a thematic concern with birth and pregnancy. The movie is clearly creatively compromised, even in its elongated "director's cut" form -- long shots that were clearly meant to be single takes are sabotaged by early fades, clumsy voiceover work coveys plot points that were supposed to be revealed by actual dialogue, and a subplot involving an immigrant shoeshiner and his young, autistic son, is never developed adequately. "Mimic" might not be full tilt del Toro (for that, head to the theaters this weekend for "Pacific Rim"), but it's still a whole lot of fun and scarier than we remember, full of moody, suspenseful set pieces, many set in the uncomfortably claustrophobic tunnels and subways beneath New York City. The monster, too, when finally revealed, is pretty ingenious -- a giant bug that camouflages itself like a man in a trenchcoat (it's pretty cool). It's not exactly a lost treasure but it's still an above average midnight movie, worth it for some occasionally stunning camerawork, a killer cast that also includes a fresh faced (but still grumpy) Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, and F. Murray Abraham, in the pivotal sci-fi/horror role as the older skeptic who knew that the genetic creations were a bad idea from the very beginning. If you have a fear of bugs, though, you might want to sit this one out if you ever plan on sleeping (or riding the subway) again.
Where It's Available: Netflix, HuluPlus, iTunes
"Punch-Drunk Love" (2002)
What's It About: Barry (Adam Sandler) runs a company that sells novelty plungers. He rescues a harmonium from the middle of the street. He starts redeeming frequent flyer coupons he discovers on the back of cups of pudding. He gets embroiled in a scam by criminals who run a phone sex line he frequently calls. He falls in love with Lena (Emily Watson). He goes to Hawaii. That is "Punch-Drunk Love."
Why You Should Watch It: After his overlong, self-serious (and completely brilliant) "Magnolia," director Paul Thomas Anderson vowed to make a short, small scale movie starring Adam Sandler. And he did just that. It's interesting, on the eve of "Grown Ups 2," to think of Adam Sandler taking on a project as risky and weird as "Punch-Drunk Love," and equally fascinating to think of mainstream North American audiences, with only a vague understanding of what the movie was, hitting the multiplexes to see "the new Adam Sandler" movie and having to sit through this. (It's probably the only movie in history to be influenced by Antonioni, "The Waterboy," and the Hawaii episode of "The Brady Bunch.") "Punch-Drunk Love" has a singular oddball charm and a surprising emotional resonance for a movie that is so outrageously weird (it won PTA the Best Director prize at Cannes that year). In a lot of ways it's one of PTA's very best films - a buoyant, fizzy, beautiful little movie about the redemptive power of love. And also pudding.
Where It's Available: Netflix, iTunes
Criterion Hulu Plus Pick: We’ve been saying it for a while now. 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 some 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.
Various David Lynch Shorts
What Are They About: Before David Lynch terrified us all with “Eraserhead” he studied at the American Film Institute Conservatory alongside people like Terrence Malick. Many of these shorts were done at that time. “Six Men Getting Sick” is an experimental short that features six figures grotesquely becoming sick with stomachs bleeding out and their heads catching fire (Jack Fisk would help Lynch makes casts of the head based on Lynch’s own visage). "The Alphabet" is another creepy animated short evincing a disturbing expression of childhood and aging. "The Amputee" Version 1 and 2" were made while Eraserhead was reportedly in financial limbo. It's also disturbing and creepy (natch) and features a woman reading from a letter she is writing while a nurse cleans out her bloody, gruesome leg stumps. There’s six in total ("The Grandmother," "Premonition Following An Evil Deed" are the other two) and yes, they’re all pretty damn weird, but a must watch.
Why You Should Stream It: Because it’s David Lynch, dummy. Yes, many of these are available on a now out-of-print “Eraserhead” Blu-Ray or the U.K “Wild At Heart” Blu-Ray, but in case you don’t happen to have them, they’re all up there for the pickings. Of course you could wait until Criterion puts them out either on the coming-in-the-near-future “Eraserhead” DVD, but why wait?
Where It's Available: HuluPlus
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.
“Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor”
“Political Animals Season One”