OnStream: May 2017
- Onscreen Chief Film Critic
I spend most of my writing on reviews of new releases in theaters, but not everyone consumes movies the same way I do. For some, going to the movie theater is a hassle or expensive or they just don’t have time for it. Movies are more accessible than ever thanks to streaming services. Every month Netflix and Amazon Prime add new titles and take away titles. There are plenty of articles written online about everything that is coming and going from these streaming platforms that a simple Google search will show you. I’m going to try to find ten recommendations among the new arrivals each month. Here’s a handful of recommendations from these new-to-streaming titles from Netflix and Amazon Prime throughout the month of May.
1. Gone with the Wind (5/1 on Amazon Prime)
In addition to The Wizard of Oz being available on Prime beginning in May, this 4 hour epic is also available. And if I may confess for a moment, I have never seen it! It’s a total blind spot for me, so I’m hoping to rectify this wrong sometime in May.
2. Don’t Think Twice (5/1 on Netflix)
One of my favorites from last year, Don’t Think Twice is an indie film written and directed by comedian Mike Birbiglia about a tight-knit New York City improv group who has its friendships tested when one of them gets selected to be on a SNL-type show. Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher make up the troupe, with Jacobs giving a real standout
3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (5/1 on Amazon Prime)
This comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy about two mismatched travelers trying to get to Chicago for Thanksgiving is an 80s classic. It’s funny and surprisingly poignant. You’ve got to love comedies that also have heart.
4. Winter’s Bone (5/1 on Amazon Prime)
Winter’s Bone is the movie that made people stop and take notice of Jennifer Lawrence. She plays a teenager struggling to keep her family together when the police come looking for her father in the Ozarks. John Hawkes gives a powerful supporting performance.
5. Manchester by the Sea (5/5 on Amazon Prime)
Manchester earned Academy Awards for writer/director Kenneth Lonergan and actor Casey Affleck. By now I’m sure everyone knows that it’s a heavy, grief-filled movie, with a couple of gut punch moments. Don’t let that deter you from seeing one of the best movies of 2016.
6. The Place Beyond the Pines (5/16 on Netflix)
This 2013 film from director Derek Cianfrance is a multi-generational crime drama about two families on opposite sides of the law and how their paths cross in 1997 and again in 2012. It’s an impressive cast, with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendez, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Rose Byrne, recent Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, Bruce Greenwood, and Ray Liotta.
7. Moonlight (5/21 on Amazon Prime)
Last year’s Best Picture winner makes its way to Amazon Prime later in the month. If you missed it in the theaters, which a lot of people must have considering it only made $27 million domestically, check it out. Barry Jenkins’ drama follows Chiron (played by 3 different actors) as a kid, teenager, and young adult as a poor, gay, black man growing up in Miami. The dinner table scene with Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali is one of the most powerful scenes from any movie in 2016.
8. Southpaw (5/24 on Netflix)
Director Antoine Fuqua’s boxing movie about a champion who had it all, lost it, and has to fight to get it all back stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, Miguel Gomez, and Oona Laurence who is a talented young actress and a standout here. Boxing movies can be formulaic, and Southpaw is not without its flaws, but Gyllenhaal and Laurence are good and boxing movies are some of the most satisfying sports movies.
9. War Machine (5/26 on Netflix)
For the last few years Netflix has ramped up their original TV content. 2017 Netflix is expanding their original movie content. One of the more intriguing ones is this political satire about the war in Afghanistan. Brad Pitt is producing and starring as a General based on Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It’s adapted from the Michael Hastings book The Operators. Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, and Lakeith Stanfield also star in the movie directed by David Michod. It’s an interesting gambit by Netflix to release this on Memorial Day Weekend, and while they have already released a few other movies of their own (check out I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore) this is the first potentially high-profile feature film from them.
10. Doctor Strange (5/30 on Netflix)
Last Fall’s big Marvel hit arrives at the end of the month on Netflix. Director Scott Derrickson and star Benedict Cumberbatch did a pretty impressive job bringing the mystical character of Doctor Strange to the big screen. Dazzling special effects and a strong cast helped propel this to some great numbers for Marvel. If for no other reason, check it out for the ability to then go on Twitter and get continual joy out of the @Cometobargain account.
Ken Jones has loved movies his entire life. His earliest movie memory is seeing Pinocchio at a drive-in theater. While watching Ghostbusters at a young age, he ran out into the dining room to recite to his parents, “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” He thought it was hilarious; his parents were less than impressed. The first movie he saw in the theater was Transformers: The Movie in 1986 (which, come on, had Orson Welles in it!). He grew up with a deep, abiding love for Star Wars. His favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski. He studied history at Elmira College where he met the founder of the OnStage Blog, Chris Peterson, and became good friends due to a shared love of movies, the Red Sox, and Chinese buffet. Since 2015, Ken has been writing movie reviews on his WordPress blog, Jonesing for Films (jonesingforfilms.wordpress.com). You can follow him on Twitter @kenjones81 and you can also find him on Letterboxd (letterboxd.com/KenJones). He lives in Maine.