Friday, November 8, 2013

Weekend Stream for 11/08/13

The Weekend Stream is a weekly feature curating content from the current selection on Netflix's US streaming service for you to watch each weekend. Just search for the bolded titles on your preferred Netflix-watching device, and you're in business! Since content can disappear from Netflix with little or no warning, there's always a chance a title will no longer be available by the time you read this, so you'd better act fast, see?!

Weekend Stream for 11/08/13

Another week, another bunch of content for you to enjoy. No particular theme or organizing principal this time around. Enjoy!

Let's talk about Stingray Sam (2009), writer/director/musician/actor Cory McAbee's follow-up to the equally bizarre The American Astronaut (2001). Stingray Sam is an absurdist space-western/musical presented as a serial of six ten-minute episodes sponsored by Liberty Chew Chewing Tobacco and narrated by David Hyde Pierce. It concerns the adventures of entertainer/former criminal Stingray Sam (McAbee) and his partner, The Quasar Kid (Crugie), as they attempt to make up for their past crimes by rescuing one of the rarest things in a future where men can breed and conceive male heirs without women: a female child. Stingray and The Kid's adventures are presented in black and white, while exposition about their strange world is provided in color animated interstitial sequences. Each episode has at least one song performed by McAbee's band The Billy Nayer Show. The songs are ridiculous, silly, and upbeat, dealing with quirky topics like the male/male babies' hybrid names ("Fredrick and Edward had a son named Fredward / Max and Clark had a son named Mark"). The set design is decidedly cheap, its spacey world very lo-fi, but it's all done with a spirit of fun that's hard to resist.

Next up is Charley Varrick (1973), Don Siegel's gritty crime picture starring Walter Matthau as a cropduster/low-rent criminal caught up in a heist that becomes more trouble than it's worth. What he thought would be a small-town bank with no money winds up being a drop spot for mafia money laundering, which puts both the law and a sadistic mob enforcer named Molly (Joe Don Baker) on Varrick's gang's tail. For most of my generation, who really only know Matthau from his Grumpy Old Men phase, seeing him as a cold, calculating criminal might be a bit of a shock, but he's a great fit in a role that's basically the dark twin of his detective in The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3. Siegel sets a pulpy, lurid tone, but focuses just as much on Varrick's quiet contemplation and grandmaster-level strategizing as he does on prurience and violence. This show-don't-tell approach means that, much like the villains, we never know just what Varrick's up to until it's too late. It may not be the best or most famous film made in the crime genre's 1970's heyday, but it's an exciting, tense game of cat and mouse all the same.

Finally, there's Blackadder (1983-89), Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson's hysterical historical sitcom following the lives of blackguard Edmund the Black Adder (Atkinson) and his eponymous descendants. Each six-episode series takes place in a different time period, beginning with the first's medieval setting and continuing to series four's WWI trench. Ineptly assisted by Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and his own family line, Blackadder schemes to attain (or maintain) his wealth, power, and status—though the fact that each subsequent generation is lower in all three measures tells you something about his success. With great supporting roles for Tim McInnerny, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and (in Series Two) Miranda Richardson's daft Queen Elizabeth I, the show combined silliness with satire in its riffs about British history and culture, mixing in all sorts of famous personages along the way. But over time, writers Curtis and Ben Elton found a way to sneak heart and sympathy into the show, culminating in a fourth and final series that played its dark, somber notes just as well as the light. All four series are streaming, as is a Christmas Carol–themed special from 1988, though the time-traveling reunion special, 1999's Black Adder Back and Forth, is only available on disc.

We'll end here for this week. Due to Veteran's day, we'll have a short week, next week, but I'll be back on Tuesday with more blather about movies and such.


  1. I might just have to catch Varrick. - dylaniousfeffernousss

    1. Cool :) It's of a piece with its '70s genre-mates, so if you've ever seen things like the original PELHAM or THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE or something, this is a pretty similar movie. Gritty, methodical, dark, but fun.