What's new on Netflix Instant this week and what's worth your time. We do the legwork so you can lean back and enjoy the show.
Super-cool '90s cinematic nihilism is alive and well and living in 2010! If you're in the mood for tons of swearing, senseless killings and one of the most random ragtag casts ever assembled, then get thee to streaming Operation: Endgame. A government assassin known as The Fool (heh heh) has a memorable first day at the new job when he finds his boss dead and must now contend with his co-workers in finding out who did the deed -- and figure out who might be next. Hey, you're never going to come across a movie that gathers the likes of Ving Rhames, Emilie de Ravin, Odette Yustman, Maggie Q, Bob Odenkirk and Zach Galifianakis ever again, so enjoy the ride and remember a time when every damn indie filmmaker was trying to be Quentin Tarantino.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel's psycho-thriller (emphasis on the "psycho") is almost a case of great premise, so-so execution, but it manages to keep throwing narrative curve balls at you to keep things interesting even when the story itself seems constantly in danger of derailing at any second. An artificial prison has been built as part of a psychological experiment, in which 20 male participants volunteer to either be prisoners or guards. The conclusion of this experiment? Human beings can be horrible creatures. Das Experiment may lack any kind of groundbreaking psychological insight, but it's got some good showmanship -- Hirschbiegel later went on to make the excellent Hitler drama Downfall and the Nicole Kidman sci-fi thriller, The Invasion.
Yeah, yeah -- a struggling writer can't pay the bills, so he becomes a male hooker. That groan-inducing premise could've made for a groan-inducing movie, but The Man From Elysian Fields manages to pull off a very difficult premise with its understated and realistic approach to the material. The best thing about the movie, however, is Mick Jagger as the proprietor of the male escort service, an aging gigolo who's harboring a lifetime of heartbreak. Andy Garcia is so-so in the lead, but Anjelica Huston, Olivia Williams and especially James Coburn are great in supporting roles -- though it's Jagger, not surprisingly, who runs the show. Directed by George Hickenlooper, a rock documentary artist who also excels at making almost-great melodramas such as Factory Girl and The Big Brass Ring.
Another Heathers wannabe that actually comes pretty close to being "the next Heathers," as three Beverly Hills high school girls get more than they bargained for when they decide to file a sexual harassment suit against a teacher -- you know, for kicks. Pretty Persuasion is a dark, nasty little movie that's sometimes a little too smug for its own good (it seems so self-consciously aware of its own "edginess" at times that you'll want to punch the movie itself in the face), but there's no denying the force of nature that is Evan Rachel Wood in the lead role. She's so good as the complete personification of pure teen evil that the movie's flaws become a little less flawed in her awesome wake.
You watched the first one a couple of weeks ago, so why not watch the sequel? Because it's, well, awful? Come on, it's not that bad! You can't buy the premise that Coleman (Jason Robards from the first movie, who doesn't appear in this one, probably on purpose) was not only a hippie spiritualist but also the inventor of magic sunglasses that allow you to control people's minds? Yeah, neither can we, but it's still a bit o' fun to watch the Coreys scurry about, vaguely aware that their time has come and gone but still trying to make the most of it. Feldman does another Michael Jackson routine that's somehow even worse than the one he did in the first movie, but who cares? The Coreys, magic sunglasses and even a hot babe or two -- you could be watching much, much worse things at 2 in the morning while drunk, and you know it.