Phil’s Big Streaming Pile: July Edition

Forensics, crafts, mountain climbing, conspiracies...and murder! 

Sorry, folks: I missed June. I could tell you the reasons why, but you're not here for my excuse-making; you want to know about movies you can stream that you didn't know you could stream, or maybe even movies you didn't even realize you wanted to stream. On with the streaming!

THE EIGER SANCTION (1975) - Clint Eastwood's movies are often peppered with some, let's say, less than sensitive points of view on women, sexuality and race. But holy cats does 1975's The Eiger Sanction seem to be going for some sort of trifecta. I'm not sure what kind of personal stuff Clint was going through at the time here, but you'll see Clint bed a double-crossing African American named Jemimah; you'll witness Clint pretend to be a swishy gay deliveryman; you'll watch agog as Clint takes brutal revenge on a cartoonishly gay villain (who owns a dog named "Faggot"). This is all couched in the closest thing Clint's ever done to a Bond film, as college teacher/hitman Jonathan Hemlock (!) is pulled out of retirement for (all together now) ONE LAST JOB. It's a bit long, but the mountain climbing stuff is genuinely breathtaking, and George Kennedy is a lot of fun to watch. Your mileage may vary on the rest of it.

THE CONSTANT GARDENER - Sitting on the more emotional end of John le Carré's "ineffectual protagonist" spectrum, 2005's The Constant Gardener goes beyond the author's trademark dry spin on espionage to delve into the terrifying, quiet evil of Big Pharma and its many casualties. I cite this film as a prime example of Netflix's vast library of "films I haven't gotten around to yet"; it languished under the shitty, standard-def "Starz Play" umbrella for a couple years, so I never bothered. But it's now in proper HD, where one can appreciate the varied tonal shifts of the film's cinematography as well as its story. Anecdotal: if you're a 40-something year-old male struggling with feelings of inadequacy, this movie might send you into a week-long depression. (And spoiler: Not that much gardening.)

OF DOLLS AND MURDER - I've been thinking lately about how much true crime has saturated our culture. It comes at us from all sides, and it's swallowing up whole channels, in the form of faux news shows, cable documentaries and made-for-TV movies. So it's rare when you find an angle that feels fresh or different. Submitted for your approval: Of Dolls And Murder, a short, brisk doc from last year that uses a 1930s creator of crime scene dollhouse dioramas (you heard me) as a springboard for the larger story of the strong-stomached folks who forge new paths in forensic science, often to the horror of the society they're trying to help. John Waters narrates as we follow student profilers, future CSI types and that creepy body farm in Tennessee we've all heard about.

SCARFACE - Time to take your medicine, film nerds. I think fans who are familiar only with the over-the-top 1983 opus will be a touch surprised at how much of a remake that film actually is; the plot is essentially intact here in the 1932 original, and for a film on the cusp of the Hays code, it's a nasty bit of business. Keep an eye out for Boris Karloff as a gangster, and wow the Boondock Saints crowd with your knowledge of how Scorsese lifted the recurring "X" motif in The Departed from this classic. Watch it; it's good for you.

SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS - Possibly a little dated in our post-Hunger Games pop culture landscape, this film from 2001 was, at the time, a pretty snarky indictment of competition reality shows. Six contestants are each given a list of the other five contestants and a gun. Whoever's alive at the end wins. The show's reigning champion? A single mother-to-be way into her final trimester, armed with a semi-automatic pistol and a maternal survival instinct. Packaged as the final three episodes of the fictional series, Series 7: The Contenders kind of came and went in theaters and was quickly warming shelves in Blockbuster's previously viewed DVD section. Dark and funny, if a little clumsy, I'll take it over actual reality competition shows.

Lastly, may I recommend you spend seven bucks and watch Berberian Sound Studio right now? I reviewed this at last year's Fantastic Fest and the film has since taken up residence in a corner of my skull, patiently waiting for a stateside Blu-ray release. Fire up the Roku, turn off the lights, turn up the sound and let it happen to you.

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