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New to Netflix: 'Boogie Nights,' 'Five Elements Ninjas,' Cheatin'

Revisit Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights" on Netflix, along with an unusually gory martial arts classic and another bizarre fit of animation from an eccentric master.

‘Boogie Nights’

So much has changed in the 18 years since Paul Thomas Anderson’s porno world epic. Anderson was then an acolyte of Altman and Scorsese, wearing his influences flamboyantly on his sleeve. Now he’s found his own, deeply eccentric voice. Back then Mark Wahlberg was not considered a serious actor; now he’s someone who, well, one sometimes takes seriously. And Burt Reynolds was on the skids, stuck in DTV hell, in desperate need of a comeback that would prove he had a powerful, weathered gravitas. And now…well, he’s back in DTV hell, and also bankrupt. (Still, great "Archer" episode.)

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Even if it’s oversaturated with look-at-me long takes that sometimes ring hollow (and sometimes really are nifty), “Boogie Nights” is at least endearingly derivative — a hungry kid’s precocious wooly mammoth that can’t keep from overstuffing itself with pure stuff. Even at its bleakest, especially in the grim second half, it's infectious fun. And sometimes Anderson does find his voice among the rattle. Nothing from more mature Anderson greats like “Punch-Drunk Love,” “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master” can top this one's Alfred Molina bit, where Marky Mark, John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane attempt to rip off his coked-up hellion, who won’t let obvious shifty-eyed junkies keep him from playing air-drum to Night Ranger. It was clear this Anderson kid was going somewhere, and yet he still surprised us all with just where.

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‘Five Elements Ninjas’
A rash of Shaw Brother martial arts classics just got dumped onto Instant, and though you can — and should — dial up biggies like “The Five Deadly Venoms” and (especially) “The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin,” the more adventurous ought to spring for this atypically bloody entry. The plot doesn’t matter, as usual, but it does eventually set our heroes against five sets of weirdo psychos, each with a hooky shtick pertaining to the earth’s five basic elements: one is dudes with spears poking out of the ground, and we'll leave the other four unspoilered. If you’re the type who thinks ass-kicking and gore should go together like nuts and gum, then this is the movie from your wildest dreams.

‘Cheatin’’

Legendary animator Bill Plympton has happily stayed in the underground, cranking out shorts and features that never stray from the deliberately rough and even more deliberately outre. His seventh feature relates a typically eccentric tale: a love story between a beauty and a bohunk who meet-cute during a near-fatal bumper car incident. Plot, as ever with Plympton, is both beside the point and unfailingly bizarre, but the real hook is the animation — a cascade of flowing images spewing from a particularly id-y id.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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