Friday, August 9, 2013

Weekend Stream for 8/09/13

The Weekend Stream is a weekly feature recommending titles currently available on US Netflix's Watch Instantly service for you to watch this weekend. Since titles can disappear with little or no warning, there's always a chance a film will no longer be available by the time you read this, so you'd better act fast, bozo!

Weekend Stream for 08/09/13

This week's picks include two movies that play with genre, and a great underwatched TV series. First up is Steven Soderbergh's Haywire, a beat-em-up action flick that is just self-aware enough to point at its own exploitation film conventions without tipping over into parody. The other main twist, of course, is that the film's protagonist and prime beater-upper is a woman, MMA fighter Gina Carano. Carano is not the greatest actress, but she is definitely the most convincing action star I've seen in ages. One of the film's chief pleasures is watching her fight macho guys like Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender knowing that she's really taking it easy on them. While the film is definitely light on plot, it's still an engaging piece of kinetic cinema, and Soderbergh keeps things breezily moving along (as he always does). Action films are rarely intelligent without taking themselves too seriously, but Soderbergh manages it here with panache.

Next up is Pontypool, a horror movie that plays with the standard zombie trope in interesting ways. Here, the action is primarily set at a snowbound Canadian radio station, where the early-morning DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) has to cast aside his usual shtick in light of a bizarre series of events happening around the small Ontario town of Pontypool. People are forming disoriented, violent mobs, repeating words and phrases like a skipping record and spreading this "infection" with abandon. Grant and his crew hole up and attempt to survive the day, with callers providing the only information they have about what's going on outside their studio. Director Bruce McDonald milks scares out of atmosphere and mood more so than shock cuts and gore—though, make no mistake, the film is bloody. Yet by drawing clear inspiration from old-time radio, especially Orson Welles's infamous "War of the Worlds" broadcast, Pontypool breathes fresh psychological life into a rapidly-stultifying type of horror.

Finally, there's The Job, a workplace sitcom set in a NYPD precinct house, created by Denis Leary and Peter Tolan. Fans of the duo's later Rescue Me will no doubt see the similarities in theme and cast, although The Job has a far more comedic tone, reflecting its pre-9/11 origins. Leary plays Mike McNeil, a hard-living detective of questionable ethics and morality, and the series follows him through a variety of cases and the wreckage of his personal life with a mix of pathos and dark humor. And the show IS funny, often outrageously so, with most of the other characters (including the delightful Lenny Clarke and Adam Ferrara) providing the lion's share of laughs. Had it debuted a few years later, The Job would likely have run on cable and lasted like six seasons (and a movie?). As it is, there are only nineteen episodes, which makes it an excellent choice for binge watching.

So there you have three very different, but equally-worthwhile, selections for your weekend streaming pleasure. If you decide to check any of these out, let me know in the comments or on Twitter!


  1. ermahgerd i love pontypool a whole heap. I ended up buying the DVD when it came out after seeing it on demand. In a way I think it might have been the flag bearer for the onslaught of indy-zom movies we're awash in now, but it was fresh and interesting and ahead of the pack (if I may mix my metaphors more freely - hehe).

    I haven't watched Haywire yet, I keep hemming and hawing on it. BUt you've convinced me to have a go at it.

    1. You were the first person I know to buy/watch PONTYPOOL! I'd heard about it on the Wittertainment podcast, but it wasn't available on Netflix via disc or streaming for YEARS. I was thrilled when it finally showed up :)

      I think you'll like HAYWIRE. It's just a lot of fun.