New on Netflix Instant: The Complete 'Freaks and Geeks
Plus 'The Forgiveness of Blood,' 'Hana and Alice,' and lots more Instant TV
"Hana and Alice" (2004), from Japanese director Shunji Iwai, is a sweetly offbeat story of high school best friends who drift apart as they follow their own destinies. The shy Hana (Anne Suzuki) concocts a tale of amnesia to convince a shy but cute bookworm that she’s his girlfriend while Alice (Yû Aoi) giddily enters the world of modeling, enthusiastic but woefully unprepared for the audition process. Iwai’s lazily paced tale is a modest delight of friendship, conflict, and innocent games under the influence of youth and his observations of their spontaneous ingenuity are lovely and magical. Japanese with English subtitles.
"The Hedgehog" (2009) is an affectionate French character piece about the inhabitants of an apartment building, from the luxury apartments above to the prickly concierge (the hedgehog of the title, played by Josiane Balasko) below. Garance LaGuillermic stars as the 11-year-old who records it all with her video camera and plays cupid to the bookish concierge and a new Japanese tenant (Togo Igawa) who takes a shine to her. French with English subtitles. Reviews here.
"Deathwatch" (1980) is Bertrand Tavernier's anticipation of reality TV, starring Romy Schneider as dying woman and Harvey Keitel as a man with a camera planted in his brain to chronicle her last days for the entertainment of a TV audience. Harry Dean Stanton and Max von Sydow co-star. It's introspective and measured and a little slow, but more thoughtful than "Equilibrium" (2002), a preachy parable with elements of "Fahrenheit 451" and "Minority Report" with the stylized touch of John Woo bullet ballet. Christian Bale is the top cop and master of Gun-Fu who joins the rebellion and Emily Watson, William Fichtner, and Taye Diggs co-star.
"Beyond the Black Rainbow" (2010), a hallucinatory low-budget thriller about a gifted woman held captive in a secret medical facility, "is no more (or less) than a brilliantly executed lark, but it's not often that we're reminded with such potency that movies are most delightful as sensory experiences," according to Village Voice film critic Mark Holcomb.
On Instant TV comes one of the best shows from the past two decades: "Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series" (1999). No TV show better captured the complexities of adolescence in the social waters of public school or the subtleties or the dynamics of the high school caste system than the sharp, funny, and surprisingly poignant series from creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow. Junior Linda Cardellini grounds the show as the former class brain who drifts toward the "freaks," a group of stoners and under-acheivers led by rebel without a clue Daniel (James Franco, looking perpetually stoned). John Francis Daley defines the "geeks" as her Steve Martin-quoting, Dungeons and Dragon-playing little brother. Set in 1980 Michigan and executed with a dead-on sense of fashion, music, and pop-culture zeitgeist, the hour long show is no sitcom (though it’s funnier than most), and the humor is often a sneaky way to explore the pain of teenage nightmares and social rites of passage.
Their college follow-up, "Undeclared: The Complete Series" (2001), is also newly available, a sitcom about the first year of college life for a handful of freshman sharing a floor on a co-ed dorm.
For a much bigger scope, there's J.J. Abrams' conspiracy spy show "Alias: Seasons 1-5" with Jennifer Garner as TV’s sexiest double agent. Her assignment is complicated by complicated parental relations (with estranged dad Victor Garber and enemy agent assassin mom Lena Olin) and cat-and-mouse games with enemy agent Ron Rifkin, who switches sides and possibly even grows a conscience.
And now that its last season has ended, you can find "CSI: Miami – Seasons 1-10," the sunny Florida spin-off of the CSI franchise with David Caruso.
You can also now see the previous seasons of these TV shows: the high school musical hit "Glee: Season 3," modern spy show "Nikita: Season 2," the southern comfort soap opera "Hart of Dixie: Season 1," doctor drama "Private Practice: Season 5," and young adult melodrama of the rich and beautiful "Gossip Girl: Season 5."
On the sitcom front is "30 Rock: Season 6," "The Office: Season 8," "Raising Hope: Season 8," "The League: Season 3," and the animated "The Cleveland Show: Season 3."