Friday, February 6, 2009

The Hulu Top Twenty

Here are the 20 most popular movies on Hulu this week. With only 1 new notable movie hitting the charts, lots of old favorites stormed back onto the list.

1. Robocop (1987)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: As one door closes, another one opens. That's how it is in life, and that's how it is on Hulu, the current case in point being the introduction of sci-fi fave Robocop the week after sci-fi fave The Fifth Element expired. A satire, a gorefest, and a revenge flick all in one, this is one of those movies that sticks in your mind, even if you last saw it in theaters 22 years ago (like me).

2. Rocky IV (1985)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: "I must break you." There's no question that this flick has all of the schlocky disappointments that caused the Rocky franchise to become the butt of comedian jokes, but looking at it through the prism of 25 years gives it a warm, fuzzy glow. By echoing the dying Cold War, the movie now embodies both film and political trends of the day, all while rehashing the story of an over-the-hill boxer with a big heart.

3. Toy Soldiers (1991)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: A group of desperate mercenaries storm a prep school and take the children and their teachers hostage. One thing they weren't counting on was bad boy Sean Astin, who has upgraded his Goonies-inspired rebellious hijinks and takes the fight to the gunmen. Astin is aided by his sidekick Wil Wheaton, and his principal, Mr. Louis Gossett, Jr.

4. Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
Last Week's Ranking: 6
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: A goofy spoof of kung fu films in which director Steve Oedekerk digitally inserts himself into an already-laughable action flick. Critics largely hated the comedic effort, with the main criticism being that it's a 2-minute joke stretched out to an excruciating 80 minutes. It's holding strong on our list.

5. Broken Flowers (2005)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Noted indie director Jim Jarmusch adds to Bill Murray's surprising string of well-done, serious roles in this critically acclaimed drama. Murray plays a man who learns that he might have fathered a child nineteen years ago. He sets out on a cross-country trip to visit the mother, but the rub is that the mother could be any of four previous girlfriends.

6. Swimfan (2002)
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Weeks on List: 2 (3)
Jesse Bradford and Erika Christensen in bathing suits? That seems to be the pitch that sold this humdrum Fatal Attraction redux, in which Christensen stalks Bradford after becoming romantically obsessed with him. My then-girlfriend had a policy of seeing all Jesse Bradford releases, so I actually plunked down box office cash for this one.

7. Black Knight
Last Week's Ranking: 1
Weeks on List: 7
Notes: Martin Lawrence stars in this godawful stinker of a movie about a man who travels back through time to the days of King Arthur. Lame jokes, shameless mugging, and a general shredding of the comedic movie genre are the hallmarks of this effort, although calling it an effort may be too kind. Now it's going to make the Hall of Fame. Boo.

8. Saints and Soldiers (2005)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1 (6)
Notes: A Mormon sniper and an atheist medic clash as their platoon struggles to survive behind Nazi lines in this 2005 actioner. Stars Corbin Allred and Peter Holden. This one keeps jumping on and off the list. It looks decent, but I'm not sure what the lasting appeal is.

Last Week's Ranking: 11
Weeks on List: 13
Notes: Jim Carrey goofs it up in a decent comedy that puts all of his face-stretching talents on display. If you can get through his current offering, "Yes Man," without puking, then this will give you paroxysms of delight. With over 3 months in the top 20, this is showing some serious legs.

10. The Muse (1999)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Albert Brooks plays a Hollywood screenwriter who hires a professional muse after falling prey to a writing block. The muse in question, played by Sharon Stone, helps him write, but has unexpected impacts on the rest of his life. Many Hollywood bigwigs make cameos as themselves, including Martin Scorsese.

11. Picture Perfect (1997)
Last Week's Ranking: 3
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: This romantic comedy is a predictable trifle, but critics were pacified by the sweet match up of Jennifer Aniston and Jay Mohr. The plot involves Aniston inventing a fictional fiancee in an effort to get ahead at work. Six weeks in, it's holding strong.

12. Higher Learning (1994)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Director John Singleton attempts to shine a spotlight on a broad range of racial, political, and gender issues behind the scenes of an urban university. The star-studded cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Connelly, Ice Cube, Tyra Banks, Kristy Swanson, and Michael Rapaport. This is before Michael Rapaport became such a joke. Critics gave it a luke-warm reception.

13. Wrong Turn (2003)
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: Eliza Dushku is about to become a hot commodity (if you believe that Joss Whedon can make a Friday night time slot work for Dushku's "Dollhouse," that is). But this by-the-numbers slasher flick is always going to be a black mark on her resume. It plays like an unofficial sequel to any number of unispired movies, from "The Hills Have Eyes" to the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake.

14. Jumanji (1995)
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: This family-friendly Robin Williams vehicle has earned a place in the heart of many a child of the 90s, as is evidenced by the sequel, animated series, and assorted spawn. Did you remember that the girl in the movie is Kirsten Dunst?

15. American Virgin (2000)
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Weeks on List: 4 (7)
Notes: Bob Hoskins and Mena Suvari star in the lowly-regarded 2000 comedy.

16. National Lampoon's Spring Break (2007)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1 (5)
Can you really call a 53 minute comedy a movie? Hulu has longer clips. The boobs of the hour belong to Nikki Ziering. Be sure to consider this one for the "Worst Movie" in the Hulu Awards, where it has been recognized as a finalist.

17. The Family Man
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Studio workhorse Brett Ratner directs this Nicolas Cage vehicle to predictable results. It's a Christmas story in which the financially successful but morally bankrupt Cage gets an opportunity to live an alternate version of his own life, one in which he is an average schmo happily married to Tea Leoni. The movie is well done, but brings nothing new to the table, and we know the outcome of the movie before our asses hit the theater seats (or, in this case, our computer chairs). Don Cheadle has a role as the mystic author of Cage's personal journey.

18. Bad Girls From Mars (1990)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Oh, you naughty, naughty Mars girls! Why must you constantly fail in ways that cry out for corporal punishment? Actually, this movie takes place in Hollywood, with a movie-within-the-movie having the ridiculous titular premise.

19. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Last Week's Ranking: 19
Weeks on List: 2 (4)
Notes: Do we give points to movies for excelling at depressing us? I'm not sure. But Ellen Burstyn in a downward spiral is too horrific to turn away from. Also: how about that arm? Features Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, and one of those Wayanses.

20. Dragonheart (1996)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1 (3)
Notes: Dennis Quaid is a dragonslayer. But Sean Connery is Draco, his secret dragon pal. How can the two of them pull off a revolt against the evil king? After a 3-month-long hiatus, it makes a surprising return to the top 20 list.

Notably Absent:
These movies have dropped off the list this week.

The Fifth Element
Last Week's Ranking: 5
Weeks on List: 13
Notes: Bruce Willis is a cab the future! Kind of. He and Milla Jovovich tear it up in this pure action adventure that keeps drawing in the Hulu viewers. With "The Girl Next Door" gone for good, this is the most popular movie of all time on Hulu. Strange, innit? I chalk it up to the promo picture on Hulu, which features Jovovich in a skimpy white costume. I think it's utterly unflattering, but I recognize that it will appeal to a certain group of people. This movie may have expired, but it will live on in the Hall of Fame, starting next week.

Less Than Zero (1987)
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: This 80s drama headlined Andrew McCarthy, but modern movie-goers will be more interested in Robery Downey Jr.'s role as an out of control drug addict. Loosely based on the soul-deadening novel by Brett Easton Ellis, it also features Jami Gertz and James Spader. The storyline revolves around dating college students who discover their friend's addiction and try to help him. This is the only new offering on Hulu that made the top 20.

Waking Ned Devine (1998)
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: What if "Weekend at Bernies" was a decent movie? It would be "Waking Ned Devine", that's what. An Irish indie film about the requisite ragtag group of local oddballs who must pretend that the recently deceased Ned Devine is alive and well, so that they can collect his multi-million lottery winnings.

The Manhattan Project
Last Week's Ranking: 10
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: This 1986 effort by Director Marshall Brickman (best known for writing Annie Hall) is about a high school student who builds an A Bomb for his school's science fair, after which he is branded a terrorist by the government. John Lithgow stars, alongside a pre-Sex And The City Cynthia Nixon. Critics gave it a tepid reaction.

Basic Instinct (1992)
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Weeks on List: 11
Notes: Sixteen years on, Sharon Stone's hoohoo is still drawing eyeballs in massive numbers. I hope she has that thing insured! At any rate, this is showing some serious staying power on the list. I guess vagina never really goes out of style.

Men In Black (1997)
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Weeks on List: 5
Notes: Pairing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as government agents who round up aliens must have sounded like crappy gimmickry, but this feature had enough wits and charm to transport us. The sequel? Now that was crappy gimmickry.

Someone Like You
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman star in this 2001 romantic comedy, which features the requisite setting of a high-powered magazine company, and lots of schmaltz. It's nothing special, but the leads, along with Greg Kinnear and Marisa Tomei, are always fun to watch.

Gattaca (1997)
Last Week's Ranking: 16
Weeks on List: 5
This 1997 Jude Law/Ethan Hawke vehicle is a true sci-fi film. It gives us a complete and compelling portrait of a dystopian future in which an intrusive government controls the very genes of its citizens. The romance between Hawke and Uma Thurman is just prevalent enough to give it an appealing, soft edge. It comes back into the top 20 on the eve of it's Hulu expiration date, probably because people are taking advantage of their last chance to download a clean, complete copy.

Look Who's Talking (1989)
Last Week's Ranking: 17
Weeks on List: 2
Notes: Meet John Travolta 2.0. In between being cool as Vinnie Babarino, and cool as a Pulp Fiction gangster, he was known as a lovable blue collar schmoe who had a certain way with the ladies. Pair him with a still-somewhat-sexy Kirstie Alley, throw a baby into the mix, and you have a bona fide franchise. The fact that the franchise could only devolve into a limp mishmash of talking animals doesn't detract from the fact that it made serious money.

The Professional (1994)
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Natalie Portman debuts her acting chops alongside a career-best performance by Jean Reno. One of the few quality Hulu offerings that is ranking consistently among the most popular. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend that you invest the time to watch this one. It surged in popularity on Hulu on the eve of its expiration.

Hall of Fame:
These are the movies that have had the longest run on the list in the past. Right now, the threshold for inclusion is 6 weeks, but I anticipate that it will go up over time. No new inductees this week.

Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Weeks on List: 8
Notes: There must be something I'm not getting about this I-Max documentary featuring fighter pilots. The message board for the movie has a lot of military folks chatting it up, so that may have something to do with it. After weeks near the top of this chart, it finally lost its lift.

Underworld: Evolution
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Kate Beckinsale as a goth-boy's wet dream can't save this dark and dreary action flick from the weight of its futuristic vampire world.

Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner teamed up in this stoner flick just before they became breakout stars.

Crawford (2008)
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Crawford is Hulu's first movie premiere, so it's appropriate that this Bush-hometown documentary has squeaked into the Hall of Fame.

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