As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al. add more content, it can be difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the new titles. Every month, I compile a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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The always watchable Nicolas Cage stars as Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian and the latest in a long line of “treasure protectors” who must commit the ultimate heist — stealing the Declaration of Independence — in order to find a treasure that dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Oh, and did I mention that he has to steal the Declaration of Independence? National Treasure is a fun movie to watch, if only to see Cage do his best Indiana Jones-meets-James Bond impression.
I’ve never been a big Thor fan. The first movie was decent enough, but not so decent that I wanted to see the second one. Thor: Ragnarok, however, intrigued me with its colorful and highly stylized look, courtesy of director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). Effects and style aside, it’s easily one of the funnest Marvel movies to date, thanks to Chris Hemsworth’s willingness to ham it up, and it helps turn Thor into one of the MCU’s greatest Avengers.
While The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus doesn’t rank up there with Terry Gilliam’s best movies, even a lesser Gilliam film is unlike anything else. Parnassus is a theater troupe owner who must outsmart the devil, otherwise he’ll lose his daughter. Enter Heath Ledger, who helps Parnassus with his mission but carries some dark secrets of his own. Sadly, Ledger died during the film’s production, with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law filling in for him in various scenes.
Voltron’s fifth season (here’s a nice breakdown) did several things. It brought some tertiary storylines to a close, united the paladins with a former enemy, introduced a new character or two, and revealed some interesting new aspects of the series’ mythos. However, being only six episodes, there’s a lot that was still left unexplored and unexplained. Hopefully, the sixth season will provide even more answers. Netflix’s Voltron reboot continues to be an immensely enjoyable watch that’s far more than the nostalgia trip that it seems at first.
After he accidentally kills a child during his first hit, smalltime crook Ray (Colin Farrell) is forced to hide out in the city of Bruges with his friend and mentor, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) while awaiting further instructions from their boss, the extremely short-tempered and foul-mouthed Harry (Ralph Fiennes). What ensues is the darkest of comedies, as Ray rails against the city of Bruges even as he begins to reassess his life and seek redemption.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wrapped up its fifth season earlier this month, and even though it’s been renewed for a sixth season, season five brought a number of the series’ plotlines to satisfying, natural, and even heartbreaking conclusions. I’ve always been a fan of Agents, ever since its uneven first season. Though technically part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s been unafraid to chart its own course and do its own thing — such as stranding most of its main cast a century in the future on a space station orbiting a ruined Earth.
Luke Cage’s first season was mixed. It started off strong but then ditched its most interesting character halfway through while exchanging urban crime drama for run-of-the-mill superhero beatdowns. But still, there was enough good in the series — e.g., casting, soundtrack, production — that I’m excited for season two, which finds Cage slowly adapting to his role as Harlem’s protector even as a vicious new foe arrives on the scene.
To call The Last Jedi “controversial” is something of an understatement. For some, Rian Johnson’s deconstruction of Luke Skywalker and certain aspects of the Star Wars mythology has ruined the franchise altogether. For others, such as myself (read my review), the film, while not without its problems, bucks the status quo and opens up some new possibilities for the Star Wars saga. If you have a dog in this fight, you’ve probably already seen the film at least once. If you don’t, then here’s your chance to see for yourself what all the fuss has been about.
Click here for a complete list of everything arriving on and leaving Netflix in June 2018.
Guillermo del Toro has proven himself with fantastical arthouse fare like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. However, his adaptation of Mike Mignola’s acclaimed Hellboy comic is proof that the director is skilled at more straightforward action stuff, as well (read my review). Well, maybe “straightforward.” In Hellboy, a demonic-looking superhero and a clandestine government agency square off against Nazi occultists who want to summon extra-dimensional horrors that will bring about the end of the world.
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy — which is arguably the fantasy trilogy — deserves all of the praise that it’s received over the years (like my review of the first film). With its incredible production values, astounding special effects, solid casting, and a script that knows when to remain faithful to the source and when to depart from it, the Lord of the Rings movies are just about as good as literary adaptations get.
After the tour de force that was Magnolia, director Paul Thomas Anderson opted for a smaller film (read the Opus review) about a toilet plunger salesman struggling with anger and intimacy issues. The film raised eyebrows for its casting of Adam Sandler in the lead, but Sandler delivers a pitch-perfect performance as the man-child Barry Egan who struggles to find meaning, love, and acceptance with the help of a mystery woman and a harmonium.
Danny Boyle’s film about a group of Scottish heroin addicts and their various schemes, hijinks, and downfalls finds a perfect line between tragedy, pathos, and pitch-black humor, with each scene filled with an incredible sense of energy. This is all thanks to solid performances from Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald, and Robert Carlyle, Boyle’s trademark directorial style, and a cracking soundtrack that features the likes of Iggy Pop, Primal Scream, New Order, and Underworld.
Over the years, news of a Blade Runner sequel has always been met with trepidation and skepticism. However, Blade Runner 2049 was about as perfect a sequel as fans could’ve hoped for. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 may not reach the original’s mythic-ness, but it’s certainly of a piece thanks to its contemplative pacing, gorgeous effects and world-building, and a storyline that builds on the original’s themes.
I know, I know, I know… Michael Bay’s Transformers movies are absolute cinematic trainwrecks. They’re big, loud, and dumber than a bucket of gummy bears. And yet, like a trainwreck, I can’t turn away. Maybe it’s because I can’t believe that movies so ludicrous and incoherent exist, much less were made for hundreds of millions of dollars. As much as it pains me to say it, I’ll probably stay up late one night to watch this one, which takes the added step of weaving the legend of King Arthur into the Transformers mythology.
Click here for a complete list of everything arriving on and leaving Hulu in June 2018.
It’s easy to look at J. Michael Straczynski’s sci-fi series and poke fun at its cheap-looking, vintage ’90s sets and special effects. But doing so overlooks Straczynski’s ambitious, complex storyline. Set in the 23rd century, Babylon 5 takes place on the titular space station where humanity and numerous alien races strive for galactic peace even as other, more ancient forces work towards all-out war. The series addressed a number of themes during its run, from ethnic cleansing and slavery, to government conspiracies and corruption, to the role of religion in society.
Click here for a complete list of everything arriving on and leaving Amazon in June 2018. As usual, there’s a lot of overlap between Hulu and Amazon Prime’s offerings.