Friday, February 17, 2017

I Stream, You Stream Vol. 20

by Patrick Bromley
So many choices to watch this weekend!

Operator (2016, dir. Logan Kibens) This Chicago-filmed romantic comedy was the closing night movie of last year's Chicago Critics Film Festival, which means it also doubled as the premiere for the film's cast and crew. Martin Starr plays a tightly-wound programmer married to national treasure Mae Whitman, who he enlists to act as the voice for a new A.I. customer service program he's creating. Covering some of the same ground as recent movies like Her, here are a lot of subjects the movie is trying to tackle, including co-dependency, growing apart in relationships and technology that robs us of human interaction, and it's more successful in some areas than in others. It's ultimately very charming, though, with two strong central performances and some really good Chicago stuff -- including a number of scenes shot at Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, a long-running Chicago comedy institution that puts on 30 plays in 30 minutes. (Watch on Netflix)
I Married a Witch (1942, dir. Rene Clair) I've been taking an interest in witches lately because I'm reading Stacy Schiff's incredible The Witches, an account of the events leading up to and taking place during the Salem witch trials. That reminded me of how much I like Rene Clair's delightful comic fantasy I Married a Witch. Sure, it's the kind of light fantasy comedy that opens with two humans being burned at the stake, but things do get happier from there as the spirit of a witch, trapped in a tree for hundreds of years (!), takes the human form of Veronica Lake (!!) and falls in love with a descendent of the man Puritan who condemned her all those years ago. And most of this is still just the setup! Any romance between Fredric March and Veronica Lake is automatically worth watching, but Clair's playful touch and some fun old-school special effects make it a quirky gem. (Watch on Shout Factory TV)
The World of Kanako (2014, dir. Tetsuya Nakashima) Here's a Japanese melodrama that feels straight out of South Korea about a former cop (Kōji Yakusho) who goes searching for his missing daughter and is horrified by what he discovers. There are shades of both The Searchers and Hardcore here, but director Nakashima manages to go even darker and considerably weirder. I won't make the case that all of it works and the movie is pretty much a one-and-done for me, but I think it's worth seeing for anyone wanting to be pushed out of his or her comfort zone for two hours. (Watch on Hulu)
Truck Stop Women (1976, dir. Mark L. Lester) Just a few weeks ago in this very column I wrote about Extreme Justice and was praising what an underrated genre filmmaker Mark L. Lester is. Just a few days later, the drive-in classic showed up streaming on Amazon Prime. It's so great. Lieux Dressler plays the madame of a truck stop brothel whose daughter (the incomparable Claudia Jennings) is both working for her and trying to take over her operation by cutting a deal with the mafia. The movie is violent and silly and super energetic and endlessly entertaining. If you dig exploitation movies at all, you're crazy to miss it. (Watch on Amazon Prime Video)
Life, Animated (2016, dir. Roger Ross Williams) This was another CCFF discovery from last spring. It's a documentary about Owen Suskind, an adult with autism, and how he learned to understand and navigate the world by watching classic Disney films. Alternately moving, funny, heartbreaking and life-affirming, the documentary's humanity is what makes it really special. It's also up for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards if that sort of thing interests you. (Watch on Amazon Prime Video)
Phantasm Ravager (2016, dir. David Hartman) The phifth philm in the Phantasm phranchise is clearly made as a love letter to phans, but there's enough here to grab onto that even those who appreciate the series but wouldn't count it among their favorites (in other words, people like me) can find a lot to like. Yes, the low budget leads to some questionable visual effects, but the movie has so much heart and ambition and things to say about aging and death that it compensates for those shortcomings. Five movies in and there's not an ounce of cynicism in this franchise. This is a fitting end. (Watch on Shudder)


  1. You had me at "truck stop brothel". Every Lester film I've seen has been way better than it deserved to be (Class of 1984 is an all-timer). I have to see this thing.

  2. Just want to say that it's insane how much hard work you put into keeping the site active and interesting; this is a great list, with thought put both into what the recommendations and how you're recommending them, and you had to both subscribe to and actually browse and use multiple platforms just to be able to make them. And this is just to provide half a day's material less than a week after arranging and executing a full on 12+ hours movie marathon event, while also co-raising two kids. Slow clap building to round of applause, Brom. I wish I had 40 hands to do so with.

    1. And that's forgetting to mention he isn't getting paid to do this. He pays to do this.

    2. I really, really appreciate you saying all that. It is a lot of work, but I love doing it and I'm very lucky to have friends who put in a ton of work to write great stuff and to have readers and listeners who appreciate what we do and participate and make it all worth doing. Truly, thank you.

  3. Jeez guys get a chat room.

    First of all sorry for my bad joke. Second of all I'll slow clap as well. This is a great site with a ton of different and interesting voices and it's clear that everyone involved really cares about what they say and really cares about movies of all stripes. I can't imagine how much work goes into this awesome place because I'm an internet moron, but I come here every day and appreciate the hell out of it.

    High five to E.S.A.D.D. for giving due respect.