Your Netflix Instant Weekend: EXISTENZ, THE SECRET OF NIMH, and more

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
May 12th, 2011

As our own Chase Whale and Josh Brunsting work tirelessly to bring you coverage from Cannes (be sure to follow all the stories coming out of France), I am here in Texas doing what I usually do, checking out the new stuff added to Instant Netflix. To which I say, better for me, I don't need pants to watch these movies.

The offerings this week are genre film-heavy, which I always enjoy. So, kick off your trousers, grab the remote, and hop into a fleshy world of video games and the animated adventures of a mother mouse with an abundance of heart.


Superstar game designer Allegra Gellar (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is testing her new game, eXistenZ, with a beta group when a would-be assassin cuts the session short. Her fleshy game pod, containing the only copy of eXistenZ, is damaged and a lowly game company employee, Ted Pikul (Jude Law), is tasked with protecting her. Allegra convinces Ted to have a gameport installed in his body so that they can enter the world of eXistenZ together to find out the extent of the damage. There, a tenuous grip on reality quickly becomes weaker.

Released in the shadow of THE MATRIX and ostensibly exploring similar themes on a much smaller scale, EXISTENZ never got quite a fair shake. It is a film filled with classic Cronenberg obsessions and the constant meshing of technology and organic substances will feel comforting to long-time fans. It's a hard movie to discuss because much of the joy of watching it is seeing the way in which it unfolds (sinister fish markets, multiple assassination plots, and Willem Dafoe as a  gas station mechanic/black market gameport installer named Gas all factor into the plot) and how the characters reconcile what they see and feel with what they believe to be reality. To over-explain things here would be a disservice to you. A friend of mine asserts that this isn't a very well directed film, and he's not entirely wrong, Cronenberg seems to favor uninspired static coverage of most scenes with the occasional bit of flair here and there. The power of the film comes from his wild imagination, though, and his remarkable script that is richly layered yet fairly easy to follow. Or is it...?


Mrs. Brisby is a widowed mouse with a sick son and a deadline - plowing season is coming on the farm on which they live and the family must move out of the field. Seeking help, she turns to The Great Owl who directs her to a group of rats living under a rosebush. Mrs. Brisby visits the rats and meets Nicodemus, their leader, who not only shares some information with her about her late husband and his ties to the mysterious N.I.M.H., but also reveals their plans to move off the farm as well. However, things are complicated when the evil dissenter Jenner formulates a plan to kill Nicodemus and keep the rats under the rosebush.

THE SECRET OF NIMH is the first feature by animator Don Bluth who had walked out of Disney with a group of fellow artists and set up shop at MGM. They would go on to create such classics as AN AMERICAN TAIL, THE LAND BEFORE TIME, and ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN but everything started with NIMH. The animation on display here is incredible, as Disney was losing its mind forcing animators to cut corners, Bluth and his team worked hard to push the tedious animation processes to the brink to create some of the most magical looking animated films of the '80s. As such, his movies like THE SECRET OF NIMH have already proven to be timeless. Though a bit dark and sometimes scary, it's a film that deals with real themes in a realistic manner (or as realistic as talking animals can be) and, as such, works better for families as adults can enjoy it with their children without sugar-coating the real world for their children. THE SECRET OF NIMH represents animation unfettered by unecessary limitations, the imagination of the creators not suppressed by the medium in which they choose to work. If you haven't already done so I implore you to discover N.I.M.H. and its secrets. (Available in HD)

The Wildcard - INFECTED

Conspiracy theories. Aliens. Questionable CGI. Gil Bellows. Judd Nelson. Isabella Rossellini. Sounds like a date to me.

If you're looking for more...

Some truly fun genre films have been added for your viewing pleasure this week including Tobe Hooper's infinitely watchable, utterly insane mess LIFEFORCE which is about a nude space vampire played by the gorgeous Mathilda May. TREMORS is the best '80s monster movie to be released in the '90s and is still every bit as fun as you may or may not remember. CHILD'S PLAY 3is the last sequel focusing on Andy Barclay and is enjoably shlocky with a truly awesome finale. STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER makes up for the horrid second entry in the series by bringing back Johnny Rico and throwing everything it can think of on the screen. PRINCE OF DARKNESS is John Carpenter's religious apocalypse horror film. Better than that though is his superb THEY LIVEstarring 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper and a pumped up Keith David. It's so badass it hurts. Watch. Obey.  MORTAL KOMBAT: THE MOVIE is one of Paul W.S. Anderson's better efforts and is an enjoyable popcorn flick. THE ANDROMEDA STRAINis considered a classic sci-fi thriller for very good reason. Speaking of classics, James Whale's THE INVISIBLE MAN was added. The anti-superhero sensation KICK-ASS is available now. Filling your action comedy needs this weekend is TRUE LIES. Two men share a odd common bond in the documentary NOT YOUR TYPICAL BIGFOOT MOVIE. I've always had a soft spot for the epic misfire HOWARD THE DUCK. Roger Moore stars in the adventure thriller film FFOLKES which also features the great Anthony Perkins. DOUBLE INDEMNITYis one of Billy Wilder's many masterpieces and one of the definitive film noirs. JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN is a fantastic and haunting war movie. Prince's PURPLE RAIN has been added as has Vanilla Ice's COOL AS ICE. I recommend one of those. Guess which one.

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