Pickings are slim in terms of this week’s content, but spoof seems to be the order of the day. Netflix have wisely introduced a ‘Recently Added’ list to their website which means that it’s much easier to find out what’s new and you don’t have to rely on someone you don’t know in California feeding you through titles based on what you have watched already, which is a big step in the right direction.
Also forgot last week that YouTube offer free films for streaming now as well as a pay per view service of the latest titles. Haven’t tested out the pay per view yet and the free streaming titles are largely bottom shelf bilge, apart from one mentioned below. Someone told me that Troma have an entire channel devoted to streaming their films for free but as yet I have not been able to find it. Anyone have a link?
Anyway this week’s pick of the best streaming titles are as follows:
Student Bodies (1981) – Netflix
Twenty years before Scary Movie in what was still early days for the slasher genre, writer/director Mickey Rose got together with a producer named Allen Smithee (?!) and made this affectionate spoof of the films Halloween and Friday the 13th. At least one film a year ruins it with its hateful view of pop culture and the targets it’s parodying nowadays but back in the day the spoof was something of an art form. Student Bodies could have been crass and stupid but there is an evident affection for the horror genre that seeps through the screen. Overly and ridiculously horny teens are targeted by a killer known as ‘The Breather’ and that’s about it, it still introduces the concept of virgins being the last to die a full fifteen years before Wes Craven cottoned on to it. It’s cheap and cheerful and full of bawdy laughs with some hilarious characterisations.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999) – Lovefilm
I remember going to see this in a packed auditorium in August of 99; I think everyone in that cinema didn’t get quite what they expected. They came for an even more extreme version of the television show that they were enjoying on a weekly basis, they got that but also got the best musical Hollywood had produced in years. It’s no coincidence that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are currently enjoying major acclaim for The Book of Mormon on the Broadway Stage, South Park the movie was the dry run for that success and it’s awesome. The show at its peak is one of the cleverest things around and at its lowest is lowest common denominator base entertainment for teenagers. The film manages to combine both of these things, holding up a mirror to its audience of foul mouthed teens and their concerned parents with its plot and somehow managing to become a pretty epic film in its own right. Blame Canada will repeat endlessly in your head for weeks…
Candyman – Farewell to the Flesh (1995) – Netflix
The first Candyman film from 1992 is one of (maybe the) best horror films of the 90s. So hopes were high for the sequel released three years later and I think it’s fair to say that everyone was disappointed. The film didn’t feel as much like a modern dark fairy tale and more of a bog standard slasher franchise movie which moved the action to New Orleans. Well either time has been kind or this was never as bad as it seemed because recently when I watched this I kind of enjoyed it. It’s nowhere near on a par with Bernard Rose’s first movie but is fairly solid and well shot horror bogeyman mayhem that has some cracking set pieces. Worth noting that director Bill Condon went on to major acclaim and Oscar attention with Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls so yeah it’s really not that bad…
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (2009) – Netflix
Terry Gilliam’s last film to date was his best since 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it’s also deeply flawed but a deeply personal film. You can tell how personal Gilliam’s films are by how wacky and similar to the old Python animations he goes and by how much sacrifice and hardship they had to endure making it. Few things can be harder than getting around the loss of your leading man, this was Heath Ledger’s final film and he died halfway through filming. Instead of letting it become a lost movie, Gilliam rounded up a few of Ledger’s mates and re-wrote the wacky finale to get around the fact that Ledger couldn’t film these scenes. Sadly it’s this aspect of the finale that shoots the whole thing in the foot and stops this being a masterpiece. The move to other actors including Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law playing the main character is too jarring and out there to accept. Everything before the finale is top notch though; Gilliam really was firing on all cylinders of his unique imagination with some cracking visuals and great performances from not just Ledger but Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield and Christopher Plummer as Dr Parnassus himself. As mentioned it’s flawed but essential fantasy cinema.
Kung Fu Hustle (2005) – YouTube
YouTube now offers free films to stream, which is deeply weird when you see it on screen but they offer almost nothing that you have heard of. Every now and then though they come through with a gem and Kung Fu Hustle is one of those gems. Star and director Stephen Chow doesn’t work enough, but due to his elusive nature each one of his films becomes a kind of mythical diamond that everyone should see because you are never quite sure if he will do another one. Kung Fu Hustle is a live action cartoon and spoof of the kung fu genre which manages to introduce elements of the supernatural and bizarre mutant kung fu masters and still be an action movie you can take seriously. All these elements combined should mean that the film is a mess but it’s not and it all works perfectly and hilariously. Sadly this version of the film is not the dubbed version found on the DVD which really added to the whole absurd nature of the film and the old school kung fu feel.