One of the biggest hurdles in the transition between moving from the local video store to an online streaming service in terms of movie consumption is the lack of the personal touch. Sure, video store employees weren’t perfect (and, yeah, some of us were snobs that would look talk about you behind your back for renting the latest Adam Sandler movie), but in a good video store, you could generally count on a well-stocked “staff picks” area for recommendations or, if the time allowed, a chat with the clerk themselves who could take your tastes into consideration and then point out something on the shelves that you may otherwise not notice.
The “staff picks” shelves may be dwindling and the need to hand over your membership card to a human being may be gone entirely, but streaming services still have the opportunity to take human tastes, rather than mathematical algorithms, into consideration when pointing out what’s worth a watch. In fact, there’s even more of an opportunity here – instead of getting recommendations from a local video clerk, there’s the chance to have films brought to your attention by bigger names in the filmmaking and film writing arenas.
Curiously, this seems to be a trend currently embraced only by some of the smaller services. Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime don’t currently offer anything like this, instead relying on random section labels and your efforts in cruising around their often-complicated interfaces in order to determine what’s worth watching. It is, to my eyes, a huge missed opportunity, as these are clearly services that could afford the involvement of lists curated by well-known folks from which viewers would gladly take recommendations.
Tribeca Shortlist, for example, adds a second level of curation to their already-existing filter of movies worth watching. (Thanks to a very specific filtering process, the signal-to-noise ratio of their films is fantastic, and the $4.99 a month is worth it alone for not having to dig deep in order to find something worth watching.) The service also features specific curation lists by well-known people in the film industry, ranging from HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE director Taika Waititi to actor Gary Oldman to director Kirsten Johnson, allowing you to check out the options to watch based on recommendations from known entities. You can check them all out here.
Shudder offers a similar set of guest curators, including ranging from directors like Joe Dante and Fred Dekker to actress Barbara Crampton to comedian and actor Kumail Nanjaini, allowing for recommendations beyond just those intimately associated with the horror genre. It’s a great feature, and one that horror fans should be embracing in full.
There is, honestly, no reason that a streaming service shouldn’t be providing some sort of human recommendation service in addition to all of the algorithms and star ratings they currently have. As we’ve yet to see solid integration with social media that would allow services to recommend titles specifically to friends (though I’ve got plenty of thoughts on that as well), just having more of a human touch would go a long way in making streaming seem like less of an endless skulk through the unknown.
Anyway, enough of my jibber jabber. On to this week’s new streaming titles!
The biggest title for genre fans of note this week is the VCR game homage BEYOND THE GATES, which Matt wrote about here! Also new are the apocalyptic vampire sequel STAKE LAND II, the indie flick HUNTER GATHERER, the Asylum film OCEANS RISING, the teen sci-fi film THE HOST, an episode of American Experience profiling the radio version of WAR OF THE WORLDS, Jeff Garlin in the mystery/comedy HANDSOME, the Hong Kong crime thriller COLD WAR 2, and the drone documentary NATIONAL BIRD, produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris.
New titles on the library-based streaming service include the action film BOONE THE BOUNTY HUNTER (featuring Jonathan Lipnicki!), the Singapore-made prison drama APPRENTICE, Jared Leto as John Lennon’s assassin in CHAPTER 27, Tom DeCillo’s DELIRIOUS featuring Steve Buscemi, the horror flicks A CRACK IN THE FLOOR, NETHERBEAST INCORPORATED, THE KEEPER (with Dennis Hopper, Lochlyn Munro, and Asia Argento), THE LAST SECT (with David Carradine), and FINAL DRAFT (with James Van Der Beek), the UFO abduction comedy FROM OTHER WORLDS, the Texas-set UFO abduction drama PALE BLUE MOON, and Full Moon’s 1999 kids flick THE INCREDIBLE GENIE, which may be partially responsible for the Mandala effect that produced Sinbad in a genie film.
The biggest news on Hulu is the release of the Hulu-excusive documentary BATMAN & BILL, chronicling the life of Batman co-creator Bill Finger. Also new are the classic western A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Terrence Malick’s TO THE WONDER, the Korean monster flick THE HOST, the nifty hockey comedy GOON, the highly-recommended terrorism comedy FOUR LIONS, Tom Hardy in Nicolas Winding Refn’s equally-recommended BRONSON, the Michael Caine/Demi Moore heist film FLAWLESS, Ryan Gosling and Kristen Dunst in the thriller ALL GOOD THINGS, Kevin Macdonald’s apocalyptic drama HOW I LIVE NOW, and 2010’s British sci-fi horror pic MONSTERS.
New titles to the service include Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke in ANGEL HEART, Jack Nicholson and Ann-Margaret in Mike Nichols’ CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, Rosanna Arquette and Madonna in Susan Seidelman’s DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, the Banksy documentary EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, Werner Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN, Pam Grier in Quentin Tarantino’s JACKIE BROWN, Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson in the revenge drama IN THE BEDROOM, solid indie romantic comedies NEXT STOP WONDERLAND and THE WEDDING BANQUET, and Humphrey Bogart having theories about strawberries in THE CAINE MUTINY.
The horror streaming service has added Abel Ferrara’s classic MS. 45, along with the mind-bendingly odd 1979 flick THE VISITOR with Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, John Huston, Lance Henriksen, Shelley Winters and Sam Peckinpah, as well as the Shudder exclusive SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL, which Mike wrote about here.
FilmStruck is emphasizing some Palme d’Or Winners at Cannes (The snobby festival that hates streaming) with some great films, including Lars Von Trier’s 2000 DANCER IN THE DARK, 1997’s TASTE OF CHERRY, 1986’s THE MISSION, Wim Winders’ 1984 PARIS, TEXAS, 1979’s THE TIN DRUM, Jacques Demy’s 1964 THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, Luis Bunuel’s 1961 VIRIDIANA, Marcel Camus’ 1959 BLACK ORPHEUS, 1953’s GATE OF HELL and THE WAGES OF FEAR, and Orson Welles’ 1952 OTHELLO.
The horror streaming service has added the underrated 1981 sci-fi horror pic STRANGE BEHAVIOR and the 2013 remake of the horror pic PATRICK from director Mark Hartley.
Full Moon TV
Full Moon has added new HD transfers of DOLLMAN and DOLLMAN VS. DEMONIC TOYS.
Night Flight Plus
New to the service are the short films special episode of the series along with the documentary loudQUIETloud: A FILM ABOUT THE PIXIES.
The oddest new title on Amazon is the 2005 film HEART OF THE BEHOLDER, a strange ego project from director Ken Tipton, the founder of the St. Louis video store chain Video Library. Ostensibly about the store’s battle with protesters over the carrying of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, the film is instead a virtual biopic of Tipton, who’s lived through the world of video stores, paintball, and pet removal services and now does something called “Amazing Karma.” It’s a surprisingly professional production, featuring Michael Dorn, Priscilla Barnes and the film debut of Chloe Grace Moretz.
Other new releases include the British horror film TRIP WITH THE DEVIL, Richard Griffin’s slasher homage SEVEN DORMS OF DEATH written by Michael Varrati and Matthew Jason Walsh, the short film OCCULT ACTIVITY, the found-footage horror STEELMANVILLE ROAD: A BAD BEN PREQUEL, the Korean thriller CIRCLE OF ATONEMENT, the Russian iceberg disaster film THE ICEBREAKER, and STARLIGHT, a French-made circus film with Iggy Pop as a Christ figure.
New catalog titles include the 1986 Italian action pic WARBUS, Joe d’Amato’s 1979 action film TOUGH TO KILL, the classic nudie film THIS NUDE WORLD, a batch of “Spaghetti” westerns (1971’s MY NAME IS MALLORY, 1967’s REVENGE OF RINGO, 1971’s TEQUILA aka KILL DJANGO.. KILL FIRST, 1968’s IF YOU WANT YO LIVE… SHOOT!) and martial arts flicks (BRUCE LEE IN NEW GUINEA, REVENGE OF THE DRAGON, HOT, COOL AND VICIOUS), the 2006 documentary ONE FOR THE MONEY: THE BIRTH OF ROCK’N’ROLL, the 1967 Russian adaptation of ANNA KARENINA, and the 1992 Linda Blair thriller FATAL BOND.
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