Friday, April 24, 2009

The Hulu Top Twenty

Hulu threw everything but the kitchen sink at us this week-- no fewer than eight new movies hit the charts, including everything from a genetically-modified-food frightfest documentary to a little-known but critically lauded Clint Eastwood vehicle from the early seventies. Overall viewership still seems to be down (I guess it's a seasonal thing), but if you have the time, you could do worse than to check out their new offerings.

1. The Future of Foods (1984)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Hey! I just paid money to rent this one from Bad timing, Hulu! The documentary does some good scare-mongering about the presence of genetically modified foods. I'm not so convinced that GM foods will be bad for my health, but I was shocked at the legal power that GM foods give to massive research corporations, to the detriment of consumers and family farmers everywhere. If you have only a vague idea as to why GM foods are bad, this is a must-see.

2. Slaughterhouse Five (1972)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: A somewhat-surreal modern classic novel adapted into a bizarre film, Vonnegut's masterful handling of anti-war themes touch on the effects of war on a broad spectrum of society, not just the soldier who bleeds on the battlefield. Twenty odd years on, this movie may be difficult to access for a modern audience, but a little investment will get you a great return on your thoughts.

3. Mad Dog and Glory (1993)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 2
Notes: Billy Murray and Robert Deniro both play against type in this offbeat comedy. Deniro is a meek cop who falls in love with Uma Thurman, a beauty who is in the clutches of gangster tough Murray
. Murray and Deniro have some really fun scenes together, as do Deniro and Thurman. The film's major fault is the lack of a climax.

4. Bad Reputation (2005)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 2
Notes: Featuring A no-name cast led by Angelique Hennessy, this horror flick centers around the lurid premise of a good girl who is raped and then uses the resulting stigma of wanton sexuality to entrap her tormentors. It didn't earn a single review on Rotten Tomatoes, but at least Hulu is putting up slight films that are relatively recent.

5. Anastasia (1997)
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: This animated Disney flick will be remembered as a good representative of the last vanguard of 2D animation. The voice talent is strictly all-star, with Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kirsten Dunst, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria, Bernadette Peters, and Angela Lansbury. A historic setting provides an educational component, the romance is light and believable, and the disintegrating Rasputin is the best villain since the Lion King's Scar.

6. Cheech and Chong's Next Movie (1980)
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Weeks on List: 4
This one is definitely on the downswing of Cheech and Chong 's storied stonerific career. While their earlier movies reveled in the goofy abuses of freedom that ran rampant in the seventies, this one can't escape the encroaching onset of Reagan's war on drugs. Still, stoner movies have their niche in moviedom, and that niche is bigger at Hulu than in the world at large.

7. Inside Special Forces (2003)
Last Week's Ranking: 10
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Military geeks will enjoy pretending they're alongside the US Special Military forces spotlighted in this movie.
It's a lot closer to gun porn than you might expect from a classy outfit like National Geographic, but they do bring their signature awesome videography skills to the table.

8. Super Size Me (2004)
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Just weeks after documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock was nominated for a Hulu Award for his reality series "30 Days," his hit documentary film takes the number one spot on the Top Twenty for the week. Could this be a sign that Hulu viewers are brainier and more health conscious than the country at large? Maybe. At any rate, if you haven't seen this fantastic movie, you should. Spurlock uses himself as a guinea pig to answer the question: What will happen when an otherwise-healthy man eats nothing but McDonalds for a month? The answer to that question is probably somewhat obvious, but the film gets us to think about the factors that go into the decision to pull into that drive-thru.

9. Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: Younger moviegoers may wonder how in hell Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner ever got famous in the first place. The Jewel of the Nile has all the answers you need-- a well-paced action comedy that shows off both actors to their best entertaining potential. It may not have aged particularly well, but it is a nice little representative of the era in which it was made.

10. Saints and Soldiers (2005)
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Weeks on List: 11 (17)
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. It looks decent, but I'm not sure what the lasting appeal is.

11. Cliffhanger (1993)
Last Week's Ranking: 11
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: Sly Stallone proves that he still has some guns (the muscley bicep kind, not the commie death-dealing kind) in this well-paced actioner about a group of high-altitude hikers facing down some gunmen on the unforgiving Alps. A decent movie for what it is, although there is a silly conceit we're supposed to swallow: Dex is the most important thing you can have to stave off hypothermia and certain death, yet no one carries it in adequate supplies. John Lithgow is the villainous foil. Hulu has it mismarked as coming from 2003-- nice attempt to modernize your listings, Hulu!

12. The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Weeks on List: 7
Notes: This movie has become notorious for two things: naked young people in the titular lagoon, and being very, very bad. Christopher Atkin's curly blond locks make him the iconic surfer boy, while Brooke Shields shows us why, after a quarter century, she still fails to engage the audience in any way that is not sexual.

13. National Lampoon's Spring Break (2007)
Last Week's Ranking: 16
Weeks on List: 12 (13)
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.

14. Three O'Clock High (1987)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: This is a funny, slick movie that relies on stylish camera tricks to form a cohesive tone. The movie spins out a simple story-- a high school student facing an imminent beating from a school bully-- to a feature-length movie. The slowness with which the scheduled fight approaches adds suspense to the climax, even if the climax can't deliver on the built up expectations.

15. Totally Baked (2007)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: I can't keep track of the stoner comedies that continue to float down the pike
. This one tries to jump on the mockumentary bandwagon about five years too late, and earned exactly zero reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

16. Shakedown (1984)
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: A forgettable actioner in which an attorney and a cop have to join forces to stop an evil, corrupt cop. At least it has the eminently watchable Sam Elliott to keep things moving along.

17. Safe Men (1998)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Two high-energy leads like Sam Rockwell and Steve Zahn bring a lot of promise to the screen, and they just barely save the hackneyed plot, which centers on two lounge singers who get mistaken for safe crackers.

18. Dig! (2004)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: With so many musical documentaries out there, a director has to go above and beyond to stand out. That's exactly what Ondi Timoney has done, culling through 2000 hours of footage to come up with the story of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, two rival bands that are a tangled mess of humanity and music industry politics.

19. The Beguiled (1971)
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Critics rave about this old Clint Eastwood film that shows his raw sexuality against a gothic western background. Eastwood is a Civil War soldier who is injured and must recuperate under the care of a group of female boarding school students. Their loneliness combine with his lust to create a tempest of emotions.

20. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Weeks on List: 2 (11)
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.

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

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: This is the seminal entry in a bottom of the barrel comedy series that inspired a whole horrific genre. There are some funny moments, both intentional and unintentional, but the movie generally just alternates between three stereotypes: nerds, fraternity jocks, and naked bimbos. I believe this has the original "impossibly long urination sound" joke that has since made the rounds in such notable flicks as Austin Powers.

Shira: The Vampire Samurai (2005)
Last Week's Ranking: 5
Weeks on List: 2
Notes: Well, the title says it all. It's a movie about a samurai who is also a vampire who is also a beautiful woman (funny how that happens). Features Chona Jason in the titular role. She's a stuntwoman-turned-playboy model-turned terrible actress. It's also funny how THAT happens.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Last Week's Ranking: 6
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: This is the Christian equivalent of the Rocky Horror Picture Show: it's full of energy and schlocky fun that you're either going to love or hate. Most people will dismiss it as unbearable, but it continues to excite a cult audience-- literally.

Kicking It (2008)
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: This like-new documentary shines a spotlight on the Homeless World Cup, a global soccer tournament that
features the best players from a pool of 20,000 homeless men. The movie tells the story of seven competitors.

Crackers (1984)
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: An instantly-forgettable comedy with a threadbare, done-to-death plot about a group of ragtag zanies who try to pull off a safe-cracking heist. Only the cast of Sean Penn and Donald Sutherland might give you the urge to check this one out.

Origin: Spirits of the Past (2006)
Last Week's Ranking: 17
Weeks on List: 5
Notes: This massive 2.5 hour anime feature didn't receive much attention outside of the target genre audience. It's nice to see that Hulu is adding this to the rolls, but if you're new to anime, you probably won't want to cut your teeth on this behemoth.

Johnny Dangerously (1984)
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: This is one of the comedies that defines Michael Keaton's early career, and I was shocked to see that it received a ho-hum 47% approval rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. It features a rapid-fire sequence of spoof comedy jokes in the vein of the Airplane movies, with a Depression-era gangster setting. Little jokes like Keaton using a price gun to put labels on puppies for sale in a pet shop keep it light and amusing, even when some of the more overstated jokes fall flat.

American Virgin (2000)
Last Week's Ranking: 19
Weeks on List: 1 (14)
Notes: Bob Hoskins and Mena Suvari star in the lowly-regarded 2000 comedy. Why has it done so well? I'm guessing it's PSMSBs (People Seeking Mena Suvari's Boobs). You can see them in American Beauty, folks. They weren't anything special then. What, you think she retrofitted them with subsonic woofers or something?

The Hall of Fame has moved! If you're interested in seeing which movies have had the most long term success on this list, check it out here.


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