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I Streamed a Stream: May Edition
Tom helps you pick out some essential viewing in his newest monthly column.

We live in a magical time for film enthusiasts and obsessives. Where once you had to scour the 'foreign' and 'cult' shelves at video stores and make three-hour round trips to catch movies at art-house cinemas to guarantee a well-rounded cinematic diet, we now have nearly the entire film world at our fingertips through streaming internet services. But with these nearly infinite options comes a heavy burden – the paradox of choice, something deeply understandable to anyone who has found themselves standing on the brink of a panic attack in attempt to make a decision in the grocery store cereal aisle. With this in mind, I bring you this service – at the beginning of every month I'll be your Sherpa as we scale these mountains of choice to find the rarefied air of specially-curated choices to spruce up your movie-viewing calendar. So without further ado....

DISTRICT B13 (2004, director Pierre Morel)
Available through Netflix and Amazon Prime

Let's start with this French actioneer, recently remade into the Paul Walker/RZA picture Brick Mansions. Judging by its box office receipts, we all made the collective decision to ignore the movie's existence, but don't let the remake's failures stand as an indicator of the original’s quality. Clocking in just north of 80 minutes, it's a brief and furious series of escalating action scenes filmed to capture the dynamic choreography. If you ever found yourself wondering why chase sequences in the mid-oughts suddenly started featuring men running up walls and over fences, look no further. Actor David Belle (one of the film's co-leads, who also reprises his role in Brick Mansions) is credited with the propagation of parkour, the kinetic art of propelling oneself over and around obstacles.  And while parkour sequences proliferated wildly through cinema in the intervening years, they've never been able to top the brutally crisp sequences captured here by director Morel (who also brought us the gift of Liam Neeson, destroyer of worlds in Taken).

(2000, director Jim Jarmusch)
Available on Netflix

With his latest film set to drop tomorrow, there's no better time to reacquaint yourself with the works of the laconic indie master Jim Jarmusch. And while there are other worthy options available to stream (Dead Man, Mystery Train, etc.), Ghost Dog is a perfect coupling with his new Only Lovers Left Alive, the last film in which he so deftly balanced his sensibilities with that of a genre picture. While his latest tackles the world of vampires, Jarmusch blended the samurai and gangster genres together remarkably well in Ghost Dog, with a wonderfully taciturn performance from Forest Whitaker anchoring the entire picture. Also notable for being the first score composed by RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan.

MOTHER (2009, director Bong Joon-ho)
Available through Amazon Prime streaming service

Let us not forget Mother's Day coming up on the 11th, because moms are awesome. Always cutting the crusts off our PB&J's, letting us stay home sick from school and attempting to prove our innocence in the case of a murdered high school girl. Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, The Host) is one of the world's finest filmmakers, always completely in control of his sensibilities and able to make hair-point turns between suspense, comedy and genuine emotion without turbulence. Mother is one of his best, with Kim Hye-ja's maternal desperation coming through loud and clear as Joon-ho continues to turn the screws on his protagonist ever tighter. I can think of no greater way to spend time with your mother this holiday.

(1964, director Ishiro Honda)
Available through Hulu Plus and Netflix

An American Godzilla remake is hitting theaters this month on the 16th, and it looks pretty darn great.  While the original 1954 ('56 for the inferior U.S. cut) film is available on streaming services in all of its sobering glory, let's instead go with the bonkers Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster. The film marks a turn for Godzilla toward the heroic for the first time in the series, and features a translated pow-wow between Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra that is inexplicable. I'm certain that the new remake will take on the horrific tone of the original picture, but indications that Godzilla will be throwing down with another giant monster suggest a little bit of the good ole' Ghidorah DNA hiding among the dour seriousness.

HOMECOMING (2005, director Joe Dante)
Available on Hulu

The arrival of Memorial Day brings the chance to pay tribute to those who have given their lives during the call of duty. While there are a number of war movies you could watch in tribute, Joe Dante's Masters of Horror episode Homecoming is one of the most disconsolate howls of anger I've ever seen captured in cinematic form. Soldiers rising from their graves is the hook of this short horror film, but to spoil the cathartic twists the plot takes would be folly. Both profoundly pro-soldier and resolutely anti-war, the film makes the argument that anybody willing to send brave men and women into combat better be to sufficiently explain why they did so. A tribute to those who have died in combat as well as a great example of socially-conscious horror film making.



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