Hey-o cinephiles, and welcome to the deluxe edition of Stream This. There was a lot to cover this week, with so many films being released on VOD concurrently or in advance of their theatrical debuts, and we didn't want to leave anything out, including those nifty themed picks. Thus, the result at hand: an extra-long version of the column, where we give you eight suggestions instead of six. (Don't worry, you won't have to buy special sheets or anything.) There's work from Brian De Palma, Paul Schrader, and Lynn Shelton to name a few, and all of it is either playing or will be playing shortly on a silver screen near you. In related news, James Ponsoldt's third film, "The Spectacular Now," opens this weekend to much critical praise from Sundance on down, so if you're looking to brush up on his canon, an earlier work is available to stream. Plus there's a largely forgotten Mark Wahlberg picture from the early 2000s to honor the "2 Guns" star while reminding us why we like artist formerly known as Marky Mark so damn much. And now, for our streaming picks of the week.
What It's About: Callous, conniving corporate exec Christine (Rachel McAdams) has been working her way up in the world, her unfettered success due, in large part, to the toiling of unassertive underling Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). Eventually, the subordinate decides she's had enough and begins to plot her revenge, beginning a circular tale of betrayal within the already vicious business culture.
Why You Should Stream It: A remake of Alain Corneau's 2010 film "Love Games," this thriller from Brian De Palma features many of the director's trademarks — a revelatory split screen, for example — and spirited performances from two clearly game actors. Our review from last year's Venice Film Festival notes De Palma's smart craftsmanship and adds "towards its end, the film begins to play like a greatest hits collection, with wry nods and winks to his most woozy thrillers. De Palma-nuts are sure to be delighted as the film transforms into a dizzying cinematic Ouroboros." Catch "Passion" before it opens in theaters on August 30th, and read our interview with De Palma here.
Where It's Available: Cable on Demand, VUDU
"The Yards" (2000)
What It's About: A recent parolee (Mark Wahlberg) takes a job as a New York subway car repairman, and quickly discerns the danger and corruption raging through the Queens rail yards. Joaquin Phoneix, James Caan, Charlize Theron, Ellen Burstyn, and Faye Dunaway star.
Why You Should Stream It: There's that cast, for one thing. Despite certain misgivings about tonal and visual similarities to "On the Waterfront" and "The Godfather," critics lauded the ensemble's performances with near unanimity. Also, we're not really sure what's wrong with a film that pays homage to those two classics. Moreover, before poor showings at the box office slipped "The Yards" under posterity's radar, co-writer and director James Gray received a Palm d'Or nomination for this insightful, intelligent, and beautifully lensed feature, his sophomore effort inspired by experiences of his own father. And if nothing else, Gray, Wahlberg, and Phoenix were pumped enough about the result to reunite for 2007's "We Own the Night."
Where It's Available: Amazon Instant, iTunes, VUDU, YouTube
"The Canyons" (2013)
What It's About: To keep his trust fund allowance spilling in, Christian (James Deen – not a typo) pleases his father by producing cheapo films in LA, often with the help of girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan), an aspiring casting director. But things go south when Tara starts sleeping with an ex-boyfriend (Nolan Funk) and Christian becomes uber jealous, even though he's a big cheating liar too. As in other tales from screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis ("American Psycho," "Less Than Zero," "The Rules of Attraction") the extraordinarily wealthy are debauched, narcissistic, and apathetic. Also, cinema is dead... or something.
Why You Should Stream It: From the casting of Lohan to the crowd-funded financing to the reports of infighting and unprofessionalism out of director Paul Schrader's set, "The Canyons" has been a project rife with speculation and low expectations. And now that the sex-and-violence-ridden result of this troubled production has finally arrived, we can hardly avert our eyes. Plus, there are the upsides of a great soundtrack and a small role played by Gus Van Sant. Our review calls the movie a "more go for broke experiment than a film," but adds the intriguing caveat, "while not about pornography, 'The Canyons' can’t help but possess that same lurid whiff of XXX material, from the crotchy, skeevy sweatiness, right down to its poor acting, tossed-off dialogue and visibly low production values." We're starting to see the appeal of simultaneous release via streaming services. This breakthrough in "cinema for the post-theatrical era," hits theaters and VOD today, and you can read our interview with Schrader here.
Where It's Available: Cable on Demand
"Touchy Feely" (2013)
What It's About: Masseuse Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) suddenly develops a crushing aversion to human contact, throwing her professional and personal lives into turmoil. Meanwhile, her brother, Paul (Josh Pais) -- an emotionally distant, Type A dentist -- discovers a theretofore unknown healing touch that sends his practice soaring and animates a stunted relationship with his daughter (Ellen Page). This miraculous reversal in energies forces both siblings to examine their identities and potential for human connection. Allison Janney and Scoot McNairy also co-star.
Why You Should Stream It: The fifth film from Lynn Shelton, "Touchy Feely" is somewhat subdued, but mysterious and compelling nonetheless, wisely using editing and camerawork to offer its insular characters a resonant voice. Our review from this year's Sundance Film Festival says, "Shelton's latest is an absorbing exploration of identity, family dynamics and the mysterious psychic push-and-pull balance of the universe" and notes a stand out performance from Pais. Watch "Touchy Feely" ahead of its theatrical release on September 6!
Where It's Available: Cable on Demand, VUDU, YouTube