“Granite Flats” isn’t an original Netflix drama but it’s new as far as most Netflix subscribers are concerned. Set in the Cold War tensions and paranoia of the early 1960s and focused on the experiences of three schoolkids investigating strange things brewing in their town, it’s a family-friendly drama originally produced for the Mormon-backed BYUtv. It features no swearing, drinking, or smoking and, for all its values, no preaching. Cary Elwes, Parker Posey, and Christopher Lloyd join the show in later seasons. All three seasons are now available on Netflix. Queue it up.
Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand
“American Sniper” was the surprise hit of 2014. The somewhat fictionalized story of Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) walks a fine line between glorifying war (or at least wartime heroics) and showing how even the survivors come out damaged. It’s directed by Clint Eastwood, a two-time Oscar winner, and his clean, strong storytelling is perfect for the story. Interestingly enough, folks from different ends of the spectrum appreciated it for different reasons, and they made this film the biggest hit Eastwood ever had. It’s rated R for violence and language. Also on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.
Also new on Cable On Demand and digital VOD this week: the animated musical fantasy “Strange Magic” from producer George Lucas (PG), the live-action adventure fantasy “Seventh Son” with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore (PG-13), and the Oscar-nominated drama “Leviathan” from Russia (R).
Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) is the opposite of family friendly, a wild, violent pulp fiction World War II fantasy scribbled outside the lines of history as we know it. Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, and Michael Fassbender star in this “what if?” war movie but Christoph Waltz walks away with the film as the cool, cultured, deliciously devious SS officer Col. Hans Landa. This is definitely R-rated. Queue it up.
“In the Bedroom” (2001) is one for grown-ups, but maybe not what you think. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson play parents who stop communicating after the violent death of their only son. It’s a quiet but powerful portrait of love, loss, and vengeance. Reviewed here. Queue it up.
“Zombeavers” adds a new twist to the zombie genre. It’s cheap, silly, tongue-in-cheek, and an irresistible invitation to deliver the tagline: It’s not just another dam horror movie. Queue it up.
“The Killer” (1989) made John Woo’s international reputation and broke the Hong Kong market into the American mainstream with its meld of high octane action, hard edged violence, operatic melodrama and rapid-fire editing, not mention clouds of doves and fountains of blood in the hails of gunfire. Chow Yun-fat is suave and silky as the soulful hitman and Sally Yeh is the singer he protects after accidentally blinding her in a nightclub assassination. Netflix offers both original Cantonese and English dub soundtracks with optional subtitles, but unfortunately has the edited version of the film. Queue it up.
Strictly for kids is “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast,” an animated feature produced directly for disc and VOD last year. Queue it up.
Netflix launches a new kid show. “H2O: Mermaid Adventures: Season One” is an animated version of the Australian series about three schoolgirls who are under a spell that transforms them into mermaids whenever they touch water. Queue it up.
Also for kids is the second season of the Netflix original series “Richie Rich.” Queue it up.
On the TV front is “Between,” a young adult science fiction thriller on which Netflix is partnering with Canadian TV. The premise: an outbreak in a small town kills everyone over the age of 22 and a quarantine forces the survivors to fend for themselves. Netflix is changing its binge-model for this production and rolling out one episode a week, with a new episode arriving every Thursday. Queue it up.
Did you know that the Transporter films spawned at TV series? No one else did either, apparently, though it’s been running for two seasons on TNT. Netflix has picked up “Transporter: The Series: Season 1” (2012) if you want to check out this incarnation, with Chris Vance taking over the role of Frank Martin from Jason Statham for the small screen. Queue it up.
Amazon Instant Prime
“Laggies” (2013), from Seattle-based filmmaker Lynn Shelton, takes on the arrested adolescence of a young woman (Keira Knightly) how tries to hold back all adult responsibility by hiding out with a high school girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) she meets in a grocery store parking lot. Sam Rockwell is the girl’s single dad, which makes the sleepover more interesting for her. On Amazon here.
If you liked the splendor of “The Great Gatsby” with Leonardo DiCaprio, you might enjoy Martin Scrosese’s “The Aviator” (2004), a lavish, luscious biographical drama starring DiCaprio Howard Hughes. It’s the director’s love-letter to the old-Hollywood movie spectacle and he pours on the glamor. Cate Blanchett won an Academy Award for her glowing spitfire of an impression/incarnation of Katherine Hepburn, one of five Oscars that the film earned. Reviewed here, and on Amazon here.
“Tyrant: Season 1,” the FX series about the corrupt ruling family of an oppressive dictatorship in a fictional Middle East country, is now available in its entirety (non-subscribers can see the first 3 episodes only). The second season begins on FX in June. On Hulu here.
Shout! Factory TV
The commercially-supported free streaming service now has the first season of “Secret Agent” (aka “Danger Man“), the cold war espionage series that Patrick McGoohan made before he was “The Prisoner.” The first season, made in 1960, was a half-hour show with a fairly serious attitude, but that McGoohan sure is one cool spy. More on the show here and all 39 episodes on Shout! Factory TV here.