Banksy's "documentary", two drunk out-of-work actors trying to survive in the country, Kevin Kline as a male escort, a Shakespearean take on vampires, the epic tale of a big green monster and a seedy look at London's underworld make up this week's best releases on Netflix Instant.
Whether it's really a "documentary" or a carefully (and cleverly) crafted publicity package, Exit Through the Gift Shop is terrific entertainment and a fascinating look at the world of street art. The film follows Thierry Guetta, a street art-obsessed French filmmaker who documents pretty much every moment of his life, and his encounters with such famous street artists as Invader (Guetta's cousin), Shepard Fairey and Banksy (who directed the film, and whose face is never shown). Watching Guetta reinvent himself as an art show producer known as "Mr. Brainwash" is strange and astonishing, making Exit Through the Gift Shop both a must-see for fans of the scene and a skilled introduction for those unfamiliar with this bizarre world.
A movie about theatre people that even non-theatre people will love, Withnail and I stars Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann as two out-of-work (or "resting," rather) thespians whose impromptu country getaway involves lots of alcohol, lots of rain and the bizarre shenanigans of Grant's gay Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths, a long way from Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon Dursley). Withnail is a strange and wonderful look at Great Britain in the '60s, anchored by three terrific performances. Director Bruce Robinson wasn't the most prolific filmmaker -- he made only two other films after this one (How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Jennifer Eight) and is currently in post production on the Hunter S. Thompson romp, The Rum Diary. Can't wait!
A "quirky indie comedy" if there ever was one, The Extra Man stars Paul Dano as a would-be dramatist who moves to New York City and rents a room from Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), a former playwright who now makes a living escorting wealthy widows around town. Yes, it's got "quirky indie comedy" written all over it, but not every quirky indie comedy scores a cast that includes Dano, Kline, Katie Holmes and John C. Reilly. Something of a Woody Allen movie if were held up to a funhouse mirror, The Extra Man is sometimes a bit too precious and self-consciously flip for its own good, but the performances keep it from flying into a world of complete absurdity -- particularly Kline's, who's aging nicely as he takes on roles where he kind of gets to make fun of himself.
A "theatre person" movie for monster lovers! A kind of goofier take on "fact vs. fiction" meta-filmmaking like Shadow of the Vampire, R & G Are Undead features a washed-up actor who agrees to direct a radical new version of Hamlet, one that incorporates vampires and searching for the Holy Grail (hey, we'd go see that). You see where this is going, right? Yep, pretty soon the company is getting a little bloodthirsty for real, which makes for some interesting and rather challenging rehearsals. R & G Are Undead isn't always as clever as it thinks it is, but you know what? Sometimes it is. So enjoy, and enjoy the appearance of The Karate Kid's Ralph Macchio even more.
Both movie versions of the tragic tale of the Hulk didn't quite cut it, though the television series almost always hit the bulls-eye. Maybe it's because it got the basic premise right, a kind of sci-fi twist on The Fugitive, as David Banner (a perfectly cast Bill Bixby) wandered from town to town in his flannel shirt, dodging the government agents that want to poke and prod him. You know the drill -- some thugs eventually mess with him, and he transforms into a green-skinned monster (an even more perfectly cast Lou Ferrigno) -- and maybe rescues the Sheriff's daughter from kidnappers as some point, too. Thankfully directed, written and performed without a smidge of irony (more or less), The Incredible Hulk enjoyably chroniciled the journey of a sad and lonely man -- and the beast inside him.
Every Neil Jordan movie pre-1992 can be seen as warm-ups or test runs to his eventual masterpiece, The Crying Game, and no early Jordan outing resembles that groundbreaking thriller more than this rough-and-tumble cockney tale of an ex-con (Bob Hoskins) who takes a job driving around a high-priced call girl (Cathy Tyson). While they at first spar and argue, they eventually develop a unique bond, one that sends Hoskins straight into the sordid London underworld of drugs and prostitution. It's ultimately much ado about nothing, but Mona Lisa has style and atmosphere to spare, with Michael Caine delivering an excellent performance as the creepiest pimp, like, ever.