Some selections on Netflix Instant you might want to watch, or re-watch (probably only if you’re in the U.S.):
They Live: What a weird, terrible, awesome movie this is. Horrifying “acting” by Rowdy Roddy Piper, hit-you-over-the-head social commentary, outstandingly poor production values, but still somewhat of a landmark sci-fi film, somehow. The long, quiet scene where Piper tries on the glasses that reveal the alien infiltration is still one of the best sci-fi scenes ever put to film, and the alleyway fight scene between Piper and Keith David, which goes on for about twenty-three minutes, then ends, then continues for eighty-six more minutes, is just hilarious. The rest is pretty much garbage, but highly watchable garbage.
(Just a note: I once saw Roddy Piper in an airport buying bottled water in a gift shop. After he left, I went up to the little Asian woman behind the register, and said excitedly, “Do you know who that was! That was Roddy Piper! Roddy Piper!” She looked at me, confused, then offered me a notepad and said “Writing paper?”)
Animal Kingdom: Watched this recently one night when I couldn’t sleep: an award-winning Australian crime drama. Great performances, lots of tension, but has that a-bit-too-slow indie pace to it. Decent movie, though. Wish it had subtitles, as some of the accents were hard to decipher. Based in part on the Walsh Street police shootings in Melbourne in the 1980’s.
The Twilight Zone: All the episodes! Apart from the classics, a lot of these are kind of clunky, campy, and heavily padded — just get to the end reveal, already! They’re still mostly enjoyable, though, and I’ll say this: Rod Serling was a hell of a wordsmith. Often his narrated intros and outros are the best parts. Comedian Chris Hardwick said the show could have been called “Nice Try, Asshole!”, and if you say this aloud at the end of most episodes, it usually fits.
The Way of the Gun: After Christopher McQuarrie won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects, he set out to write a crime film featuring “characters who don’t go out of their way to ingratiate themselves to you, who aren’t traditionally sympathetic.” He pretty much succeeded, as there’s really no one likeable, at all, in this movie. But I still kind of like it. There’s an early scene in which one of the “heroes” punches Sarah Silverman in the face, and then a time machine appears and someone from 2011 pops out and says “Thank you.”
The Edge: A condescending rich jerk and a sleazebag photographer wind up lost in the woods, squabbling incessantly over a supermodel despite the fact that a GIANT DAMN BEAR is trying to eat them both. There’s something great about that premise. The film isn’t actually great, but it’s good, and it’s one of those I just have to watch every so often, because how often do you get to see Anthony Hopkins calling a giant bear a “motherfucker”? Hardly ever.
Paranormal Activity: What scares me more than scary things is the idea that a scary thing might be about to scare me. Like how Roy from the I.T. Crowd feels about balloons: “They explode suddenly, and unexpectedly. They are filled with the capacity to give me a little fright, and I find that unbearable.” That’s what Paranormal Activity is, sitting there scared of being about to be scared, and I thought it was pretty effective at that.
Luther: A BBC cop drama starring Idris Elba as an unconventional detective (I think pretty much all detectives are unconventional at this point). I only watched the first episode, and it wasn’t great by any means, but a) I’ve heard they get better, and b) Idris Elba is amazing in it. There’s a moment in the first episode where he realizes his wife may be about to dump him, and the panic that shows in his eyes should net him some sort of award. Best Panicky Eyes in a Dramatic Television Series, or something. I have to admit, though, it’s still a little weird to hear him speaking with his natural accent after watching him as Stringer Bell on The Wire for so long.