Now Streaming: Movies out of the past

[Streaming movies and TV shows—on services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Videos—are ephemeral: Here one day, gone the next. The purpose of the Now Streaming series is to alert you to what movies and shows are new to streaming, what you might want to watch before it disappears, and other treasures that are worth checking out.]

The Mummy

The Mummy (coming 9/1)

★★★★☆

For about two decades, Universal enjoyed a serious cash cow with its monster films and their endless sequels. The Mummy (1932) was among the earliest and best, and one of the most eerily atmospheric. The director, Karl Freund, had been a cinematographer in Germany, shooting many of the Expressionist classics (The Golem, The Last Laugh, Metropolis, and so on), and this dreamy, off-kilter sensibility fit perfectly with the story of an ancient Egyptian prince (Boris Karloff, once again proving his amazing range) trying to resurrect his lost love.

The Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter (coming 9/1)

★★★★★

Another creepy, atmospheric movie, The Night of the Hunter (1955) was the only film directed by the great hammy actor Charles Laughton. Robert Mitchum gives one of the cinema’s greatest performances as an evil preacher—“love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles—hunting for a young boy and girl who know the secret location of a stash of stolen loot. Screenwriter James Agee and cinematographer Stanley Cortez contribute to a shocking, shadowy world of fairy tale horrors. The film flopped, and Laughton never directed again; only recently has it begun to find its place as an American classic.

The Clowns

★★★★☆

Federico Fellini began his career in the midst of the Italian Neo-Realism movement, but as time went on, his films began to grow more and more fantastical and phantasmagoric. Made for TV, The Clowns (1970) is a crucial turning point, at which the director was giving up the garish (Satyricon) and looking toward the intimate (Amarcord). The movie is filled with facts about the lives of clowns, as well as personal vignettes about Fellini’s own association with them. It’s a jumble of amusing, awkward, and touching, and yet always fascinating.

Chaplin

Chaplin (coming 9/1)

★★★☆☆

Fellini claimed Charlie Chaplin as the maker of his three favorite films, but it was Richard Attenborough that attempted the official biopic Chaplin (1992). This clunky, misguided, but lovable movie tries to pay tribute to a cinema artist that Jean-Luc Godard once called “the greatest of all.” Though Attenborough’s polite, workmanlike direction doesn’t do any justice to Chaplin’s sublime art, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in the title role is nothing short of miraculous. In smaller roles, Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Kline, Milla Jovovich, and Diane Lane are also memorable.

The Eiger Sanction (coming 9/1)

★★★★☆

Before he was a multiple Oscar-winner, Clint Eastwood was once a maker of sturdy and reliable action movies. The Eiger Sanction (1975) was only his fourth film as director, and it already shows him in command of his medium. He plays a retired mountain climber/assassin who is asked to perform “one last job,” which—of course—requires him to climb one more mountain to track and kill his prey. Eastwood’s outdoor footage is spectacular, and the script does a wonderful job of doling out the suspense gradually. George Kennedy and Vonetta McGee co-star.

Letters from Iwo Jima

Letters from Iwo Jima (coming 9/1)

★★★★☆

Another great one from Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) tells a WWII story through the eyes of the Japanese. Eastwood goes to great lengths to respect cultural representation, while remaining true to his own vision; the movie still has his singular bravado. Of course, the real greatness of this movie comes out when crossed with its companion piece, the American side of the story: Flags of Our Fathers (2006).

The Conversation (coming 9/1)

★★★★★

Francis Ford Coppola made The Conversation (1974) right smack in the middle of the first two Godfather movies, back in the days of an American film industry that encouraged new ideas and personal films. Gene Hackman gives one of his finest performances an expert soundman in San Francisco who secretly records a conversation and becomes obsessed with the content of it—its suggestion of murder. Coppola’s screenplay and direction show him at the height of confidence, subtlety, and artistry.

Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven (coming 9/1)

★★★★★

Another great, personal 1970s classic, Terrence Malick’s second film Days of Heaven (1978) is loosely based on Henry James’ novel The Wings of the Dove. Bill (Richard Gere), Abby (Brooke Adams), and Linda (the incredible Linda Manz) are migrant laborers who go to work for a dying farmer (Sam Shepard). Though Bill and Abby are lovers, they pretend to be siblings in the hope that the farmer will marry Abby and leave his land to her. It’s not a great plan. Malick, however, does not focus on plot as much as he does the rhythms of the land and the colors of the light. It’s breathtaking.

Eve’s Bayou (coming 9/1)

★★★★☆

Actress Kasi Lemmons, who had a small part in The Silence of the Lambs, made her extraordinary writing and directing debut with the one-of-a-kind Eve’s Bayou (1997). Set in Louisiana in the 1960s, it tells the story of young Eve (Jurnee Smollett) and all the simmering dramas of her large family, which lives in a lovely house next to a swamp. Voodoo and magic run through the story, giving it a very special feel. If you liked Beasts of the Southern Wild, you should definitely see this.

The Arbor (expiring 9/6)

★★★★☆

Another one-of-a-kind independent film, The Arbor (2010) is technically a documentary about the British playwright Andrea Dunbar (Rita, Sue and Bob Too!), who died in 1990 at the age of 29. But director Clio Barnard takes recorded interviews with Dunbar’s family and friends and films actors lip-syncing to the recordings. She also stages bits of Dunbar’s plays—all about the working class living in housing projects. The effect is bizarre, theatrical, and oddly freeing.

What’s new

  • The African Queen (9/1)
  • Amores Perros (9/1)
  • Angel Eyes (9/1)
  • Basic Instinct (9/1)
  • Beverly Hills Cop (9/1)
  • Braveheart (9/1)
  • Clueless (9/1)
  • Coming to America (9/1)
  • The Cotton Club (9/1)
  • The Doors (9/1)
  • Dog Day Afternoon (9/1)
  • Everything Is Illuminated (9/1)
  • Explorers (9/1)
  • Face/Off (9/1)
  • The Final Countdown
  • Ghost (9/1)
  • The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid (9/1)
  • I.Q. (9/1)
  • Insomnia (2002) (9/1)
  • Marley (9/6)
  • Mean Girls (9/1)
  • Mission: Impossible (1996) (9/1)
  • Network (9/1)
  • Serpico (9/1)
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (9/1)
  • Sunset Boulevard (9/1)
  • Team America: World Police (9/1)
  • The Thing (9/1)
  • A Time for Drunken Horses
  • The Two Jakes (9/1)

Expiring soon

  • An American Werewolf in London (9/9)
  • Best in Show (9/1)
  • Choose Me (9/1)
  • Dirty Harry (9/1)
  • Flatliners (9/1)
  • From Paris with Love (9/8)
  • The Gore Gore Girls (9/8)
  • Hoosiers (9/1)
  • I Was a Male War Bride (9/1)
  • Lethal Weapon (9/1)
  • The Million Dollar Hotel (9/1)
  • Misery (9/1)
  • Moscow on the Hudson (9/1)
  • My Bodyguard (9/1)
  • The Pajama Game (9/8)
  • Pitch Black (9/1)
  • Rocky I-V (9/1)
  • Roxanne (9/1)
  • The Shape of Things (9/1)
  • Show Me Love (9/1)
  • Sneakers (9/1)
  • St. Elmo’s Fire (9/1)
  • Stir Crazy (9/1)
  • Superfly (9/1)
  • The Wayward Cloud (9/1)
  • Weird Science (9/1)

Subscribe to the Now Playing Newsletter

Comments