This weekend, you can either subject yourself to the deafening buzz blaring from San Diego Comic-Con, or stay home and pick one of approximately 14 billion options available on streaming over a variety of services, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, On Demand, or other sites. Every Friday, Vulture tries to make life easier by narrowing it down to a handful of heartily recommended options. This week, we combat the blockbuster mayhem of Comic-Con with spectacles of a different nature, from a modern Hong Kong classic to a Danish riff on Curb Your Enthusiasm to a superhero movie with a dark twist.
In the Mood for Love
“Stunning!” “Epic!” “Mind-blowing!” These are a few of the exclamations we’ll see out of this year’s Comic-Con footage presentations. They’re also applicable reactions to Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 In the Mood for Love. Set in 1962 Hong Kong, the film follows two neighbors, Chow (Tony Leung) and Su (Maggie Cheung) as they befriend one another, discover their significant others’ extramarital affairs, and slowly decide if their relationship could evolve out of its platonic status. The two are like a pair of magnets held back from connection. The cramped apartments and alleyways of Hong Kong bring them (and us) so close together that we can feel the fire burning between the two leads. Wong Kar-wai has never skimped on visuals and In the Mood for Love is another cinematic pleasure filled with striking colors. It’s all in an effort to capture the smoldering gazes of Leung and Cheung. Luxuriate in their meaningful silences. (Available on Netflix)
This Danish situational comedy, by Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam, plays like a dark, demented version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Because obviously there was room for Curb Your Enthusiasm to become darker and more demented. Hvam plays the Larry David proxy, a successful comedy writer with a steady girlfriend and an inability to function in social situations. Early episodes cover topics we have all faced, like, “What would you do if a former call girl spent a week at your house?” and “How much peer pressure does it take to shoot heroin?” Also like Curb, the show’s shocking moments are balanced out by Hvam’s lovable-nerd persona. How sadistic can Klown get? One episode was written by Melancholia director Lars von Trier. Along with the full 60 episodes of Klown, Hvam and Christensen’s feature adaptation of the show is also available — and highly recommended. (Available on Hulu and Netflix)
Wim Wenders’s tribute to Pina Bausch is as experimental as they come, intercutting re-creations of the late choreographer’s famous shows with insightful interviews and stripped-down movements performed amid natural settings. Dance is one of the most difficult art forms to penetrate, rarely employing narrative and connecting with audiences through primal motion. Wenders finds the perfect framing for Bausch’s dance troupe, then stands back from the action. He lets Bausch speak to us through her art, which jumps from elegant to jagged in the span of seconds. The theatrical version of Pina was presented in 3-D, though it’s not necessary to feel the impact of the dancers’ violent motions. Bausch’s choreography for Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” featuring a troupe of women moving in unison across a patch of dirt, is as breathtaking as any action sequence we’ve seen all summer. (Available on Amazon Prime, Netflix)
Director James Gunn is currently set to direct Marvel’s 2014 sci-fi epic Guardians of the Galaxy, which makes us wonder if the head honchos at the comic-book conglomerate ever watched his last film or even glanced at the poster. Like its central hero, Rainn Wilson’s masked vigilante “The Crimson Bolt,” Super wears a disguise. It looks like a superhero movie. But underneath all that is a terrifying examination of mental illness and the possibilities of mistreatment. After his wife slips back into a drug habit and shacks up with her dealer, Wilson’s Frank Darbo goes from everyman to bloodthirsty crusader. He can’t seem to crack superheroism until he meets Libby (Ellen Page), an unbalanced comic-book-store employee who pushes him to bash the brains out of his small town’s “evildoers.” It’s like the anti–Silver Linings Playbook. Christian cartoons, line-cutters, and Kevin Bacon all factor into the twisted indie, and on top of a career-best performance from Wilson, Gunn delivers sharp commentary that jabs at the comic “universe” he’s about to enter. (Available on Netflix)