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February, being the shortest month of the year, is expected to have fewer streaming releases than other months. But even given that, the selection is rather dismal. Thankfully, enough has come out to give Cross the Streams something to do besides wish that aliens would show up in the second season finale of House of Cards. (Spoiler alert: they don’t.) But how good a week can it be when the most high-profile release features a character as dumb as Elizabeth Shaw? Let’s take our half-full glasses and head into space with Idris Elba behind the wheel-thing.
Prometheus (HBO Go)
As a pseudo prequel to one of the greatest sci-fi thrillers of all time, Prometheus features “Ridley Scott the visual artist” more than “Ridley Scott the master storyteller.” The script from Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof starts with promise, with a team of scientists discovering an ancient message that leads them across the universe to a planet that holds many secrets. Then they discover some of those secrets, and it’s clear that everyone was more interested in spectacle than making a coherent narrative. It’s not a complete wash by any means. The production design is quite literally out of this world, but Michael Fassbender is the only actor who looks like he knows what kind of movie he’s in. It works as a midnight movie more than a Hollywood blockbuster, especially if you have a space helmet bong handy.
The Twilight Zone: Seasons 3 & 5 (Netflix Instant)
Netflix likes to add and subtract seasons of The Twilight Zone willy nilly, and they’ve re-added 73 episodes of this ever-watchable series of camp insanity. These seasons feature episodes that haunted me in my youth, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You,” and the dual malicious inanimate object threat of “Living Doll” and “The Dummy.” Just put the first episode on and let them play in the background as you go about your day, and before long you’ll start to notice that nothing is as it seems.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (HBO Go)
In the not too distant past, there was a guy named Mike Nelson who sat with two robots and watched the movie The Island Earth, and it was one of the more disappointing TV-to-film adaptations sci-fi fans had ever seen. While it is of course still full of laughs and clever musings, it isn’t that funny, and it only runs 73 minutes, which is 15 minutes shorter than the cut of the actual film they watch, and shorter than the TV episodes that no one had to pay money to watch. It’s better to just watch the other MST3K offerings that Netflix has. Or…
Rifftrax – Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe (Hulu Plus)
Maybe you want to see all three MST3K guys (Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) waxing on about terrible movies in their human form. If that’s the case, look no further than this, in which they sarcastically jab Jesse Ventura. The former governor of Minnesota plays an intergalactic cop whose partner makes a mess of things while searching for the Anti-Life Equation. His mistakes include traveling to Earth and getting a woman pregnant. It’s a fascinatingly terrible movie, complete with Jim Belushi, so you know these guys have a ball with it.
Repeaters (Hulu Plus)
You’ve seen this kind of story dozens of times before, but Carl Bessai’s Repeaters gives the formula a unique setting in which to thrive. Three former addicts are given a day pass from their rehab center, and each goes off to handle some emotionally trying affairs with varying results. That night, a huge storm passes through that shocks the three of them in a very literal fashion. They wake up to find they’re trapped in a time loop of the previous day, and youthful anarchy becomes something more horrific as the cycle seems to have no end. Think Groundhog Day without anyone as visually interesting as Bill Murray, and with a different set of redemption values.
The City Dark (Netflix Instant)
If you live in a big city where the sky is just something that hangs out above the skyscrapers, this is the documentary for you. Ian Cheney’s 2011 look at light pollution takes viewers all over the U.S. to ask the question, “Do we need the dark?” And after you’ve seen all this gorgeous cinematography, interesting causal connections, and input from scientists and philosophers, you’ll realize that we’ve never needed the dark more. (Says the guy writing in front of a computer that almost never shuts off.)
Star-Crossed (Hulu Plus)
the CW’s latest trek into “pretty people acting out overly familiar sci-fi tropes” is on Hulu, and it’s just begging you not to be prejudiced against it. The show is about a group of aliens — recognizable by their henna face tattoos — who are released from their internment camp and allowed to go to a public high school, where love happens. Imagine the pilot for Alien Nation as written by someone who loves Lisa Frank stickers.
If you need more dick doorknobs in your life, Showtime Anytime is now streaming Don Coscarelli’s cult novel adaptation John Dies at the End. Otherwise, just head to that fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. Just hang a left at Yuggoth and don’t stop.