Matt Damon, a haunted hotel, the threat of nuclear war, lusty Roman battles and Chris Kattan getting eaten by a shark are some of the delights you’ll find in the new releases on Netflix Instant.
Before director Paul Greengrass took over the Bourne series with his frantic, herky-jerky visual style, we had Doug Liman’s more by-the-numbers first installment: a competently made, well-acted and efficient franchise-starter with a few clever tricks up its sleeve to keep you on your toes. Matt Damon is most definitely the true star of the show, jumping into his new career as Action Hero with confidence and grace, nicely underplaying his role as a deadly assassin and rogue government operative who can’t remember anything about himself. One thing’s for certain, though — most people want him dead. Oh, and co-star Franka Potente is pretty Euro-hot — that’s for certain, too.
An even more shameless pop-art piece of Cold War paranoia than its big brother, WarGames, The Manhattan Project takes “topical” ’80s absurdity to a whole new level, as a high school kid builds a nuclear bomb as a science project and ends up being pursued by all sorts of government types. His only hope? John Lithgow, who knows a thing or two about building nuclear bombs himself. It’s ridiculous beyond your wildest dreams — and pretty entertaining, too, with its square-jawed earnestness demanding your eventual respect: you get a sense that the filmmakers actually set out to say something with this thing. For the love of God, kids, don’t try this at home!
“You mess with the ‘fro, you got to go.” Undercover Brother has no right being as funny as it is, but there it sits, throwing joke after joke at you until you laugh so much that you might pass out and watch it again when you wake up. Austin Powers wishes he was this funny — or this clever in satirizing the James Bond movies, along with the blaxploitation B-cinema of the ’70s. Eddie Griffin rocks in his best role to date as the freelancing protector of the black community, with Dave Chappelle stealing the show as “Conspiracy Brother.” You also get Denise Richards looking hot as “White She Devil” and, yeah, Chris Kattan getting eaten by a shark. Why hasn’t this spawned a franchise?
Neil Marshall, who brought us Dog Soldiers and The Descent, is one of those directors who makes almost great movies, and his latest contribution to close-but-no-cigar cinema is this seething, sweaty epic that depicts the Roman struggle against… well, the Picts, the Celtic inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands. While Marshall may not be the best at pacing, he’s aces at atmosphere, and Centurion is simply dripping with not so much “historical authenticity” as the somewhat menacing mystery of legends and tall tales, turning the film into a bloody, somewhat bizarre bedtime story (a la both Dog Soldiers and The Descent before it) rather than any kind of history lesson. Definitely worth checking out, even if it falls a little short of being completely satisfying — or memorable.
Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining is the scariest Stephen King adaptation out there, and one of the best horror movies of all time, period. Who can forget the creepy twins? The hedge maze? The whole “Red Rum” thing? The blood in the elevator? Oh, and then there’s Jack Nicholson, already creepy enough in his own right, slowly (or not-so-slowly) being driven insane by the isolation, his inability to work… and the company of ghosts that inhabit the ballroom and play on his paranoia and unbalanced mind. Good times. If you haven’t watched it recently, do so as soon as you can. If you’ve never seen it, watch it now.