(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)
One Night in Miami
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Release Date: 2020
Director: Regina King
Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Regina King‘s feature directorial debut is an actor’s showcase, featuring four performers at the top of their game as they share the screen and burn it up in the process. Inspired by true events, One Night in Miami finds friends Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) gathering in Miami for one of Cassius’ fights. It would be the fight that turned him the world heavyweight champion, and Cassius is planning on following-up this win by joining the Nation of Islam (a decision that would lead him to become Muhammad Ali). But what should be a night of celebration amongst the four friends turns combative as grudges and emotions run high. Cassius has doubts about joining the Nation of Islam while Malcolm, who is considering leaving the Nation of Islam, thinks Sam hasn’t done enough for the African American community. This set-up could’ve lead to a very talky, very uncinematic film. But King and her cast keeps the film moving, resulting in something powerful and timely.
For fans of: Ali, Malcolm X, great actors feeding off of each other’s performances.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Release Date: 2003
Genre: Historical Epic
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany
Master and Commander made headlines recently when some jabroni on Twitter Dot Com had the nerve to bad-mouth the film while tagging the movie’s star, Russell Crowe, in the process. Crowe, not one for playing nice, responded to the tweet, calling out this clown and defending the film against anyone else who might dare to talk shit. And Russell Crowe is right to defend Master and Commander, folks, because it’s a masterpiece. In a sane world, Peter Weir‘s historical epic, based on the many, many seafaring books by Patrick O’Brian, would’ve launched an entire franchise. But we don’t live in a sane world, we live in hell. As a result, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World underperformed at the box office when it arrived in 2003, and any plans for future films were sunk. Thankfully, time has been kind to the flick, with critics and movie fans alike continuing to sing its praises. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, Master and Commander finds Crowe playing Jack Aubrey, a captain in the Royal Navy. On the surface, Master and Commander is a war film – it even opens with a badass title card proclaiming, “Oceans are now battlefields.” But Master and Commander isn’t an action movie. Instead, it brings us fully inside its world, making us feel as if we’re another member of Captain Jack Aubrey’s crew as it navigates the seas. It’s an engrossing, thrilling film that only gets better with age, like a fine wine or Paul Rudd.
For fans of: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Last Of The Mohicans, Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany rockin’ out and playing some sick tunes on a big ship.
Now Streaming on HBO Max
Release Date: 1985
Genre: Dark Comedy
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Thomas Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Richard “Cheech” Marin, Catherine O’Hara
Head’s up: Martin Scorsese‘s After Hours is leaving HBO Max at the end of the month. But I didn’t want the clock to run out without highlighting this weird and wild gem. Full of manic, coked-up energy (all of which is accentuated by Scorsese’s beloved fast dolly zooms), After Hours has Griffin Dunne as a data entry drone who meets a good looking woman (Rosanna Arquette) in a diner late one night. Dunne’s character tracks her down to a studio in SoHo, but what he thinks is going to be a night of casual sex turns into something far stranger. Arquette’s character and her sexy roommate, played by Linda Fiorentino, act weird enough that Dunne flees the apartment. But he doesn’t have enough money for the train ride home, and it’s pouring rain. Thus the stage is set for a series of mishaps in which Dunne stumbles into one unlikely situation to the next, all of it culminating in a neighborhood of weirdos ready to chase him down and do him harm. It seems weird to call any Martin Scorsese movie “underrated” at this point, but After Hours is definitely up there. It’s moviemaking at its finest.
For fans of: Bringing out the Dead, Good Time, lots of sweaty close-ups of Griffin Dunne’s unibrow.
Gretel & Hansel
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video & Hulu
Release Date: 2020
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Director: Oz Perkins
Cast: Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Charles Babalola, Jessica De Gouw, Alice Krige
Oz Perkins’ stylish, occult-infused Gretel & Hansel takes the classic fairytale and gives it a feminist twist. Yes, the story is still about two kids (Sophia Lillis and Sam Leakey) who stumble upon a house owned by a witch (Alice Krige). But the script also goes deeper, becoming a story about how society can warp feminine power into something fearful. Gretel & Hansel was a January movie, which means it’s the type of flick the studio had no confidence in. It’s a pity, because there’s more inventiveness and originality here than in most studio flicks these days. If you missed it in theaters (and there’s a good chance you did), now’s your chance to catch-up.
For fans of: The Witch, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, PG-13 movies that get away with surprisingly dark stuff.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Now Streaming on Netflix
Release Date: 2011
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård
David Fincher‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was supposed to launch an entire franchise. And the film was, by no means, a box office bomb. And yet…the sequel never came together. Instead, Sony eventually just rebooted the whole thing with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a movie I bet you’ve completely forgotten about already. But Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo is great – a slick, brutal murder-mystery with a heart of solid ice. Reporter-turned-pariah Daniel Craig and emotionally disturbed hacker Rooney Mara join forces to find a serial killer against a snow-covered backdrop. Sony dropped this unapologetically bleak and graphically violent thing in theaters around Christmastime, which in retrospect is very, very funny.
For fans of: The Social Network, Gone Girl, Rooney Mara eating Happy Meals.
Arsenic and Old Lace
Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel
Release Date: 1944
Director: Frank Capra
Cast: Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson
A hysterically-funny (and often just hysterical, in terms of people running around and shouting their heads off) dark comedy, Frank Capra‘s Arsenic and Old Lace is about two very nice elderly women who are also cold-blooded murderers. Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair) are two spinsters who invite lonely old bachelors into their home for a nice, home-cooked meal. A nice, home-cooked meal that’s also loaded with poison. The hapless bachelors kick the bucket and are promptly buried in the basement. Things get complicated and farcical when Mortimer (Cary Grant), the nephew the aunts raised as one of their own, returns home to announce he’s getting married. Unfortunately, Mortimer’s brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) comes home, too – and killing runs in the family, because Jonathan is a serial killer on the run from the law. All of this sounds hopelessly dark, and yet the film is so wildly over-the-top and charming that it ends up being delightful.
For fans of: Bringing Up Baby, Charade, movies where everyone is dialed up to 11.
The Straight Story
Now Streaming on Disney+
Release Date: 1999
Director: David Lynch
Cast: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton
The Straight Story is famous for being a David Lynch Disney movie and also Lynch’s only G-rated film. But that doesn’t make this any less Lynchian – there are still plenty of the filmmaker’s trademarks (including loving shots of factories belching out smoke as they let out groaning, churning noises). Lynch’s work is often cited for its brutality and darkness, but there’s a sweet kindness deep down beneath all that grime, and The Straight Story allows Lynch to showcase that softer side that so many people watching his other work often miss. Based on a true story, The Straight Story follows Alvin Straight, an elderly man who learns his estranged brother has suffered a stroke. Unable to drive and not keen on taking public transportation, Alvin retrofits a riding lawnmower and sets out to drive it 240 miles to see his sibling one last time. Along the way, he encounters quirky locals all well slowly divulging more about himself. The end result is funny, unique, and often achingly beautiful, with Richard Farnsworth (in his final big-screen performance; he died by suicide a year later) turning in an honest, endearing performance that sticks with you long after the credits have run out.
For fans of: Twin Peaks, Paris, Texas, silently weeping as you watch an old man ride a lawnmower beisde a sprawling cornfield.
Now Streaming on Netflix
Release Date: 1991
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith
Hook is a mess, but it’s a Steven Spielberg mess, which makes it much more interesting than your average movie messes. The film asks an intriguing question: what would happen if Peter Pan grew up? The answer, apparently, is that Peter Pan would become a workaholic who ignores his family and shouts at his children when they interrupt his very important work phone calls. The adult Peter is played by Robin Williams, and soon he’s called back to Neverland when his old nemesis, Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps his kids. Again: this is a good premise. Unfortunately, the script – credited to Jim V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo, with Carrie Fisher doing some uncredited rewrites – is all over the place. The logistics of Peter’s past aren’t really well thought out (he has no memory of his time in Neverland, somehow? Until he does? I guess?), and Spielberg relies too heavily on some admittedly great production design to do most of the heavy lifting. But underneath the bombast and bullshit, there are some genuine moments. Williams is great as a grown man learning to be a kid again, naturally, and Hoffman is chewing the hell out of the scenery. Throw in one of John Williams’ most beautiful Spielbergian scores and you have a movie that’s disappointing but also oddly watchable.
For fans of: Christopher Robin, The Goonies, strange Glenn Close cameos.
The Quick & the Dead
Now Streaming on Hulu
Release Date: 1995
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio
Before Sam Raimi became a blockbuster filmmaker with Spider-man, but after he was well-established as the creator of The Evil Dead series, he made The Quick & the Dead. The result: a box office bomb. But in the years since the film’s release, many have realized what a gem this is – a wild, over-the-top Western, Raimi-style. Imagine all of Raimi’s DIY Evil Dead camera tricks and over-the-top gore in a Western setting, and you’re halfway there. Sharon Stone is a mysterious lady gunslinger who rides into a town in the midst of a big shooting competition. All sorts of grizzled cowboys (most of whom are played by great character actors) take to the main dusty street to try to blow each other away, winner takes all. But Stone’s character has a more personal reason for being there: the person who runs the town with an iron fist, a real bad guy played with sadistic glee by Gene Hackman, killed her father. And now she wants revenge. It’s corny stuff, and that’s the point – the premise exists merely so Raimi can go absolutely wild, staging one memorable gunfight after another, complete with moments where people have perfect circles blown through the back of their heads. Pre-fame Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio also show up, with Crowe playing a gunfighter turned preacher and DiCaprio as a baby-faced shooter always trying to prove himself. It’s good, silly fun.
For fans of: Unforgiven, The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi doing his thing.
Now Streaming on Netflix
Release Date: 1992
Director: Kevin Hooks
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Bruce Payne, Tom Sizemore, Alex Datcher, Elizabeth Hurley
After the surprise success of Die Hard, Hollywood thought they had a surefire formula for success: movies about lone heroes fighting off terrorists. As a result, moviegoers were inundated with a series of films that took the Die Hard set-up and relocated it to a different place. Passenger 57 is Die Hard on a plane, and it has no illusions about being anything else. Wesley Snipes is airline security expert John Cutter, who ends up on a plane with an evil terrorist, played by Bruce Payne. And wouldn’t ya know it, that terrorist has a bunch of goons ready to take over the plane and start gunning down hostages. Only one man can stop him: John Cutter, baby! Snipes makes for a great lead (he totally nails the famous “Always bet on BLACK!!” line even though it’s very, very silly), and Bruce Payne is highly memorable as the bad guy who is so tough and so bad that he orders doctors to not use anesthesia even when he’s about to undergo plastic surgery.
For fans of: Die Hard, Under Siege, Wesley Snipes wearing a giant jacket.
/Film – ‘Slash Film: Now Stream This: ‘One Night in Miami’, ‘Master and Commander’, ‘After Hours’, ‘Gretel and Hansel’, ‘The Straight Story’, and More’
Author: Chris Evangelista
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January 20, 2021