Best Of Netflix: Amusement Parks and Carnivals

[BoxTitle]Fear[/BoxTitle] [Netflix] [NetflixWatch id="496543"/] [NetflixAdd id="496543"/]

Almost everyone has long forgotten this crude, ridiculous and beyond offensive boyfriend-from-hell thriller from 1996… but pretty much no one has forgotten the “roller coaster scene.” It’s just so ridiculously brazen, unapologetically crass and undeniably hot, how can it not be seared into your brain with the rest of those guilty pleasures you keep hidden away from the light of day? Reese Witherspoon is a Good Girl, and Mark Wahlberg, oh, he’s a Bad Boy, and you know what Good Girls like to do with Bad Boys in these kind of movies — rebel, raise hell and writhe in forbidden, dirty, drippy pleasure. During the early days of their relationship (the part that’s all id-driven attraction and lust with no sense of consequence), Reese and Marky Mark go to an amusement park and enjoy the (carnal) thrills and (orgasmic) chills of a roller coaster — the Good Girl takes the Bad Boy’s hand and kind of guides him to a certain area of her body, inviting him to explore and indulge as they go up and down the hills and slopes, clack-clacking and whooshing along under the night sky. Marky Mark, we expect this kind of behavior from you, but Reese! We are just simply shocked, young lady — and very impressed.

[BoxTitle]Big[/BoxTitle] [Netflix] [NetflixWatch id="303553"/] [NetflixAdd id="303553"/]

A movie with a heart as Big as its star would become, Penny Marshall’s sweet, sentimental comedy gets most of its magic from Tom Hanks‘ pitch-perfect performance as Josh, a 12-year-old boy who wakes up one morning in the body of a 30-year-old man. Golly gee, how in the hell did this happen, you wonder? Well, take note, New Yorkers (and tourists): the fortune-telling machines at Coney Island actually work, as young Josh soon discovers after he makes a wish — with all the sincerity and passion that comes with being a kid — to be “big” after he’s deemed too short to get on one of the rides. It’s always good to see Brooklyn’s run-down amusement park on film, and Big gives it an appropriately otherworldly and supernatural feel — there’s real mystery and magic at work in this old place, and it’s got great hot dogs, to boot! True, the scene featuring Hanks and Robert Loggia performing a duet of “Heart and Soul” on a giant foot-operated keyboard to the delight of FAO Schwartz customers is the film’s real show-stopper, but Josh/Hanks never would’ve gotten there without first visiting Zoltar Speaks.

[BoxTitle]Hearts in Atlantis[/BoxTitle] [Netflix] [NetflixWatch id="60021238"/] [NetflixAdd id="60021238"/]

Director Scott Hicks’ moody sort-of adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats” (which is included in the four-part compilation known as Hearts in Atlantis, though the short story with that actual title is a different yarn entirely) chronicles the friendship between young Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) and Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), a mysterious stranger with more than a few secrets. The carnival scene is actually one of the more sinister moments in the film, with young Bobby demonstrating somewhat supernatural abilities as he gets the better of McQuown the Monte Man (Alan Tudyk), who becomes increasingly more angry as the little brat seems to always know which card is the Queen of Hearts. Like the rest of the film, the carnival sequence, despite its darker undercurrents, is presented in a nostalgic, gentle soft focus as Hicks approaches the story as a Stand by Me kind of memory play in which an adult (older Bobby is played by King alum David Morse) looks back on his ’60s childhood — particularly, one summer that was filled with wonder, danger and true magic. If only we had all gotten a chance to meet Ted Brautigan when we were kids.

[BoxTitle]Funland[/BoxTitle] [Netflix] [NetflixWatch id="70002708"/] [NetflixAdd id="70002708"/]

“Welcome to the abusement park.” As is often the case with low-budget horror movies, the tagline outshines the actual product here, though that doesn’t mean that Funland isn’t without moments that are as ridiculously inspired and punny as its one-liner. Funland, a quaint but much-beloved amusement park, has been taken over by a mob-run development company that promptly begins to cut costs and install, shall we say, less family-oriented rides and attractions. One of the casualties of the cutbacks is Neil Stickney (David L. Lander, aka Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley), who was once the park accountant until he suffered a nervous breakdown and re-invented himself as clown mascot Bruce Burger… and Bruce doesn’t like being torn away from the only life he knows. Our sad clown goes even more bonkers when he’s visited by the ghost of his former employer, who tells him he was murdered by the gangster who runs the takeover company. It sounds like one of those flicks that’s just a little too frickin’ crazy to ignore, doesn’t it? Yeah, don’t even try.

[BoxTitle]Passion Play[/BoxTitle] [Netflix] [NetflixWatch id="70137743"/] [NetflixAdd id="70137743"/]

A carny thriller that’s just too damn weird to dismiss (though many unfortunately have), Passion Play stars Mickey Rourke as a down-on-his-luck musician who gets deeper into trouble when he falls in love with Lily Luster (Megan Fox), a circus “freak” with angel wings who’s the glittering prize of ruthless gangster Happy Shannon (Bill Murray, who often seems to be reprising his Mad Dog and Glory character). Nothing is what it seems in this strange, dreamy Passion project from writer-director Mitch Glazer, an old pal of Murray’s who wrote Scrooged and was a staff writer for Saturday Night Live back in the ’70s — what the film lacks in narrative coherence it makes up for in sheer mood and atmosphere, creating a sense of gritty yet fantastical melancholy and mystery that makes for a sometimes alienating but often engrossing and whimsical fairy tale. Rourke, who’s never looked worse, gets to do sex scenes with the gorgeous Fox, which may inspire some squirming or even eye-covering.