Here's what's new in streaming sci-fi!
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Streamers! After a short hiatus, your favorite Giant Freakin’ Robot streaming column is back! (Just because it wins that distinction by default doesn’t mean it’s not a victory.) We’ve given Cross the Streams a bit of a facelift, and we’ll be moving forward by sticking to the five most notable new movies and TV series that the Internet has to offer by way of streaming, for better or worse. If this means we’ll have to leave all the $15,000 creature features behind, so be it.
The World’s End (HBO Go)
One of the funniest movies of 2013, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End is sadly the last of the Cornetto Trilogy that began with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. But it hardly feels like a swan song, as Simon Pegg arrogantly leads a team of comparatively mature old friends down the pub crawl from hell. Or from outer space, to be more precise. With always enjoyable performances from Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike and Pierce Brosnan), The World’s End is a sobering look at how one’s inner child can sometimes take over the rest of the personality. Plus, it’s funny as fried gold.
While some people mourn the passing of “Luc Besson, the serious filmmaker,” I can’t help but celebrate him embracing go-for-broke action flicks, as he imbues his storytelling with balls-out ludicrousness that almost never feels disingenuous. (See: Lucy.) So even though 2012’s Lockout is directed by both James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, Besson created this concept and co-wrote the script, turning Guy Pearce from a quality actor into cinema’s greatest badass since Snake Plissken. As a wrongly convicted prisoner sent to a space prison to save the President’s daughter — a plot that couldn’t sound any more glorious if it tried — Pearce is a rugged, one-liner-spouting macho man who steals every scene despite being the main star. It’s not a perfect movie, I’ll give you that, but it’s certainly more self-aware and enjoyable than supposed “fun” action movies like those in The Expendables franchise.
Blood Glacier (Netflix Instant)
A creature feature set against a backdrop of snow and ice, with a central squad of characters trying to figure out what’s going on. Sound familiar? No Kurt Russell in this one, though, as the horrors of Blood Glacier come to us from Rammbock director Marvin Kren. I’m not going to stand here and say that this movie is a breath of fresh air or anything, but a dependence on practical special effects, combined with solid direction, make this a must-see for all sub-genre completists. My biggest complaint isn’t even with the movie itself, but with Netflix for only putting the HORRIBLE English-language dub on here instead of the original German audio track. It’s damned near scarier than all the bug things, and not in a good way.
Mars (Hulu Plus)
It’s a wonder that Geoff Marslett hasn’t done anything that interesting since 2010, when he made the splendidly odd sci-fi comedy Mars, in which Kinky Friedman is the President of the United States. (That’s all you need to watch this, right?) The film follows three disparate personalities on a trip to the moon in 2015, where quirk is on full display. But it’s not just in the performances by Mark Duplass, Zoe Simpson and Paul Gordon, or the annoying TV coverage of the trip; it’s the beautiful and lovingly rendered animation style that Marslett brings to it, a cross between hand-drawn pictures and rotoscope animation, with a color scheme that other films could only dream of. And yes, a lot of it is red, like the planet.
War of the Worlds: Goliath (Hulu Plus)
It’s the 2012 Malaysian-produced animated steampunk sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic novel that you never knew your life was missing. With voice actors including Adam Baldwin, Elizabeth Gracen and Adrian Paul, this flick takes place in an alternate reality 1914, 15 years after the martian tripod invasion came to an end. On the eve of World War I, the aliens naturally return in even more massive forms, and the world unites in battling against the otherworldly militia with its own tripod named Goliath and its young crew inside. Directed by artist/animator Joe Pearson, War of the Worlds: Goliath weaves history into a Wells-inspired world, and speaks to Pearson’s visual talents.