If you haven’t been paying attention to your video-on-demand options, now would be an excellent time to start. A few of this year’s best independent films that did not get a wide theatrical release are currently available to rent on VOD — and probably for less than the cost of two movie tickets. Here are three of summer’s best-reviewed and most ambitious movies, all of which are now available to stream in your living room (after the kids go to sleep).
(Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube)
Post-apocalyptic movies are all the rage right now, but this breathtaking action-thriller — directed by Bong Joon-ho — stands out from the pack. Seventeen years after a climate-change experiment wipes out life on Earth, the sole survivors take refuge on an enormous, globe-circling train called Snowpiercer. It’s an uneasy situation, with the passengers strictly segregated by class. The proles stage a revolt and attempt a move from the back of the train all the way to the front. The imaginative premise is elevated by strong visuals and a terrific cast that includes Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, and, most notably, Tilda Swinton, who plays a sadistic, yet weirdly hilarious, bureaucrat.
(Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube)
Director James Gray’s sepia-tinted historical drama has been garnering enthusiastic praise from critics, who have compared it to such classic American-dream-gone-bad epics as The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, and Once Upon a Time in America. Marion Cotillard plays a Polish immigrant who arrives at Ellis Island in the early 1920s. Fearing deportation for herself and her ill sister, she makes a deal with a shady burlesque theater owner (Joaquin Phoenix). Jeremy Renner costars as a magician and rival love interest. Read our interview with director James Gray and star Joaquin Phoenix.
Think of The Congress as Robin Wright’s Being John Malkovich. Wright plays a version of herself in an alternate reality in which she falls off the map after 1987’s The Princess Bride, and must support a son with a degenerative disease. The actress undergoes a process in which her brain and body are scanned into a computer, generating a virtual “Robin Wright” who can be used at the studio’s whim. Eventually, “Wright” tries to break her contract, even as the movie vacillates between animated, live-action and fantasy worlds. The genre-bending film was directed by Ari Folman, the Israeli director behind 2008’s provocative animated documentary Waltz with Bashir.
Photos: Snowpiercer, Radius-TWC; The Immigrant, Anne Joyce/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection