Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) is one of the funniest films that Will Ferrell ever made. Set in the NASCAR culture, Ferrell is a race car driver with two first names who outraces his own intellect in a comedy that features neither a ballad nor a single night spent in Talladega. It does, however, feature John C. Reilly as the equally dim but exceedingly loyal best friend, Gary Cole as the absent father who periodically appears to gravely intone meaningless aphorisms with a beer in his hand, Leslie Bibb as his shameless golddigger of a wife, Sacha Baron Cohen as the flamboyantly gay and aggressively French champion who steals Ricky’s days of thunder, and Jane Lynch as Ferrell’s mom, who whips his bratty boys into shape with a smile. It’s a great ensemble and they get some of the funniest scenes, thanks to the generosity of Ferrell and his collaborator.
Oh, did I not mention that it’s directed and co-written by Adam McKay, or rather Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter Adam McKay thanks to The Big Short? You might not see Oscar ambition in this comedy but you can see where the sense of humor that made The Big Short so effective came from. It’s available on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Also on both services are the Russian fantasy diptych Night Watch (2004) (Netflix / Amazon Prime) and Day Watch (2006) (Netflix / Amazon Prime), reviewed on Stream On Demand here, the Irish comedy Waking Ned Devine (1998) with Ian Bannen and David Kelly (Netflix / Amazon Prime), and the drama Like Sunday, Like Rain (2015) with Leighton Meester and Debra Messing (Netflix / Amazon Prime).
Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand
Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg’s cold war drama starring Tom Hanks as the civilian lawyer sent to Berlin in 1962 to negotiate a prisoner swap with the Soviet Union for captured U-2 pilot Gary Powers, is nominated for six Academy Awards. PG-13. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
The election satire Our Brand is Crisis, inspired by the 2005 documentary of the same name, stars Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton as American campaign consultants in a Bolivian election. R. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Politics also plays a big part in the TV journalism drama Truth with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford as Mary Mapes and Dan Rather. There’s a bonus featurette with the rental. R.
– the British period piece Effie Gray with Dakota Fanning and Emma Thompson (PG-13)
– the medieval action film The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel (PG-13)
– the animated adaptation Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (PG)
– the Sundance-winning drama Difret from Ethiopia (no rating)
– Big Stone Gap with Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg (PG-13)
– the boxing drama The Challenger with Kent Moran and Michael Clarke Duncan (PG-13)
– the Mexican action comedy Ladrones (PG-13)
– the coming-of-age drama Yosemite with James Franco and Henry Hopper (R)
Available same day as select theaters nationwide is 4th Man Out, a coming-out romantic comedy starring Parker Young and Evan Todd. Not rated.
Better Call Saul: Season 1, the “Breaking Bad” prequel, stars Bob Odenkirk as the man who will become the amoral Saul Goodman. The second season launches on AMC in mid-February. Reviewed in Stream On Demand here.
Experimenter (2015) stars Peter Sarsgaard as Stanley Milgram, the social psychologist whose experiments in human behavior shocked America, in Michael Almereyda’s inventive drama, a cinema experiment in its own right. PG-13. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
The documentary A Ballerina’s Tale (2015) profiles Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to become a principal dancer for American Ballet Theater.
Also new: the controversial, sexually-explicit drama Love (2015) from the always-provocative Gaspar Noe, the dark comedy I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, and the SyFy mini-series Tin Man (2007), a steampunk reworking of The Wizard of Oz.
Amazon Instant Prime
Amy, a portrait of British soul singer Amy Winehouse featuring rare home movies and performance footage, is one of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries. R.
The BBC drama Poldark: Season 1 (2015) stars Aidan Turner (of “The Hobbit” and the original British “Being Human”) as a British soldier who returns from the American Revolutionary War to rebuild his life in 18th century Cornwall. With Downton Abbey closing house, this may be your next British period piece.
More streaming TV: the MTV high school comedy Awkward: Season 5.
More new film arrivals: Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation (2003) with Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray (reviewed on Stream On Demand here), A Better Life (2012) featuring an Oscar-nominated performance by Demián Bichir, the coming-of-age The Kings of Summer (2013), and the South Korean thriller Bad Guy (2001) from Kim Ki-duk.
Grease: Live, which premiered earlier this week on Fox, is now available to watch not-so-live on Hulu.
The debut feature from the Coen Bros., Blood Simple (1985), is now on Hulu. Other new titles this month: the Oscar-winning Braveheart (1995) with Mel Gibson, An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) with Richard Gere and Debra Winger, The Madness of King George (1994) with Nigel Hawthorne, and the comedy Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad (1988).
True Story (2015) dramatizes the true story of a disgraced journalist (played by Jonah Hill) who interviews a convicted killer (James Franco) who appropriated the journalist’s identity while in the run. R.
You can see the low-fi sci-fi indie I Origins (2014) with Michael Pitt and Brit Marling on HBO Now and HBO Go days before its cable debut.
With Magic Mike XXL coming to HBO later this month, you can now catch up on the original Magic Mike (2012). Other new arrivals for February include the Oscar-winning films One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) with Jack Nicholson and Piano (1993) with Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel.
Available on Saturday, February 6 is A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014).
Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism (2015) brings the best-selling kids book to the screen. PG.
Showtime honors Black History Month with four music documentaries: Roberta Flack: Killing Me Softly (2014), Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church (2015), Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to Off the Wall (2015), and Public Enemy: Live from Metropolis Studios (2015).
Older films new to Showtime Anytime this month: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), from the novel by Patricia Highsmith (Carol) with Matt Damon, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Weight of Water (2000) with Catherine McCormack and Sarah Polley, David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) with Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr., and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) with Ewan McGregor.
Arabian Nights Trilogy, Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes’s six hour-plus, three film cycle loosely based on eight story from One Thousand and One Nights, comes to Fandor before it’s available on disc or VOD: Arabian Nights 1: The Restless One (2014), Arabian Nights 2: The Desolate One (2014), and Arabian Nights 3: The Enchanted One (2015).
The original Sherlock Holmes (1916), starring William Gillette—the man who was considered the definitive Sherlock Holmes of the stage—was thought lost to time until a print was found a couple of years ago at the Cinématèque Française. It has since been restored and is now streaming on Fandor.