Don’t spend hours scrolling the menus at Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other movie services. I point you to the best new films and hidden gems to stream.
Movies included here may be available on services other than those mentioned, and in other regions, too. JustWatch and Reelgood are great for finding which films are on what streamers; you can customize each site so that it shows you only those services you have access to.
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both sides of the pond
Almost exactly three years ago, British TV creator Russell T. Davies — the guy who rebooted Doctor Who for us so gloriously back in 2005 — debuted a down-to-earth science fiction miniseries that followed one family in Manchester, England, through a tumultuous, even dystopian 2020s. The show gets more and more prophetic with each passing month. (The first episode introduces us to a refugee crisis in which Ukrainians are fleeing conflict in their country, and a rising fascist leader in Emma Thompson’s “entrepreneur” turned politician.)
I’m a bit obsessed with Years and Years, and I’ve started rewatching it again. If you haven’t seen it — or if you haven’t seen it since it was new — I heartily recommend giving it a watch (or a rewatch). Yes, it’s completely harrowing, very nearly soul-crushing. But its tenuous optimism and profound beauty offers us hope that the future won’t be entirely catastrophic, even if it might look that way right now. (Read my review.)
In case you missed it:
leaving Netflix soon
Jessica Chastain is always a join to watch — her recent Oscar win for Best Actress in The Eyes of Tammy Faye is well deserved — but she’s especially incredible in 2016’s Miss Sloane, in which she portrays a Washington lobbyist who may not be the hero we want, but might be a hero we need. Her subtle performance in this gripping political thriller is both still-waters and all surface, cool and deep but not mysterious. Her whatever-it-takes level of mastery and drive, which is, in our culture, never as acceptable in a woman as it is in a man, makes this movie a masterwork of both feminism and realpolitik. (Read my review.)
leaving Prime soon
The recent sad news of Bruce Willis’s retirement from acting is a good reason — not that one is needed — to revisit one of his most iconic performances: as cop John McClane in 1988’s Die Hard. Director John McTiernan utterly transformed the action movie with his blithe take on the genre, but it’s Willis’s snarky performance, as an NYPD officer who finds himself defending a Los Angeles office tower from thieves disguised as terrorists, that made the film an instant hit… and an enduring favorite. It’s one I never tire of rewatching. Yippee-ki-yay!
Prime hidden gem
Imagine if Laurel and Hardy were Irish hitmen — played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson — caught in a web of existential angst. That’s what In Bruges is: intellectual slapstick, a ticklish combination of comic torment, a brutal grasping of life’s fickleness, and sheer bloody violence that is like a shout in the dark against it, as if you could hold back the universe’s uncaring by taking its senselessness into your own hands, by being as miserable a bloody bastard as the universe is itself. It makes you have to laugh, however shallowly, because what else can you do? It all makes no goddamn sense at all. (Read my review.)
Disney+ hidden gem
Matt Damon and Christian Bale give endearingly prickly performances as two entrepreneurial creatures trying to maintain their souls while working for a giant global corporation in Le Mans ’66 (aka Ford v Ferrari outside Europe). The manly friendship of their characters, as they build a race car, is oil-and-water but affectionate, and the racing stuff is pretty thrilling, too. (Read my review.)