While Amazon Prime is a veritable goldmine of forgotten, underrated, and obscure films from the previous two decades, finding gems among the jumble may be difficult. Not to mention the company’s tendency to remove titles abruptly, just to return under a new link, just as unexpectedly, causing migraines. Who can maintain track?
If you’re looking for something new to watch this weekend, here are some recommendations
Ridley Scott’s homage to claustrophobia crams its blue-collar characters into quarters too tiny to support sanity, and too harsh to live. Whether it’s Scott’s control as a filmmaker or the purity of horror as a cinematic genre, Alien can make Space—capital “S”—feel as claustrophobic as a coffin. After all, tension is a story, and violation is a fact: When the mining vessel Nostromo’s crew is woken from cryogenic hibernation to respond to a distress signal from an apparently inert planetoid, they will find nothing but unearthly devastation.
From there, things go horribly wrong until the crew realizes what they’ve brought aboard and what their fellow crew members are made of—literally—and a hero emerges: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the Platonic ideal of the Final Girl, who must battle a viscous, phallic grotesque (courtesy of H.R. Giger, the master of the phallic grotesque) and a fellow crew member who’s basically a walking During Ripley’s journey through the ship’s steel innards, Aliens transforms into a psychosexual nightmare, a critique of the essentially male process of colonization and a symbolic treatise on assault trauma. If you shout loudly enough, nobody will listen.
While understated dramatic performances are fine, the continuous overblown performances featured in Raising Arizona need precise management from both directors and performers.
From the initial wooing scene to the last confrontation with the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, the Coen brothers’ film is a charming and quotable comic tale.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson’s first animated film, uses the same maddeningly conventional stop-motion methods as Isle of Dogs. Mr. Fox and his pals strive to flee the bad farmers in this apparently kid-friendly picture, but it’s clearly geared for their parents, who probably read Dahl’s novels in elementary school, remember stop-motion when it wasn’t antique, and have followed Anderson’s work for years.
Mr. Fox is wider and simpler than his previous works. The story has been extended from Dahl’s original to include family, rivalry, and feeling different. Wes Anderson could only have produced this picture with its gorgeous fall tone and Max Fischer or Dignan-Esque pranks.
The Karate Kid
Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi, the sensei who instructs the tormented Daniel LaRusso in martial arts, is now an 80s legend. Many of the moments seem dated and trope-laden, although that’s primarily owing to the film being imitated so frequently since its premiere. To a whole bunch of young kids, it must have defined karate and inspired innumerable dojo openings and yellow belt ceremonies. “Sweep the leg, Johnny,” says the cruel Cobra Kai instructor, Sensei John Kreese.
Nightbreed is a strange hybrid of a horror film and a dark fantasy novel. It’s Clive Barker’s second feature film, but his ambition may have gotten the better of him. He clearly intended Nightbreed to be a horror epic with a deep message about identity, acceptance, and community. In practice, it struggles to find the right tone. It’s darkly funny at times. It’s not always creepy.
Sometimes you’re not sure whether to take the action on television seriously. The art direction, scenery, costumes, and makeup are all outstanding. Some of the character designs may be “silly,” but many will wind up in your dreams. This is a tale about monsters wanting to live quietly in a secure town, but it lacks the iconic aspect of Barker’s most renowned creations.