OnStream: November 2017

Ken Jones

  • OnScreen Chief Film Critic

Every month, Netflix and Amazon announce a list of movies they are adding to their streaming service. While I focus most of my attention on movies currently in theaters, this is alternative programming for people who can’t get to the movie theater on a regular basis. Usually, I try to split the list into five from Netflix and five from Amazon Prime, but the selection for Netflix wasn’t all that great, so I forced a 6-4 balance in favor of Prime, but it could have easily been 7-3. Here are 10 recommendations from the new streaming titles available in the month of November.

1. Oculus (11/1 on Netflix)

We just got through Halloween and some people may have had their fill of horror movies for a while, but if you’re still in the mood, Oculus is worth checking out. It’s actually a pretty clever and original mainstream horror flick from 2014 about two siblings haunted by a supernatural mirror in their house. It stars Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites, and is directed by Mike Flanagan, who went on to direct Hush and the recently releaeed Gerald’s Game, both of which can be found on Netflix. He also directed last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil which garnered positive reviews.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%

2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (11/1 on Amazon Prime)

The real movie that signaled the return of Robert Downey Jr., not Iron Man, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a delightful action comedy from Shane Black, the writer of Lethal Weapon, in his directorial debut. Downey plays a New York City thief who stumbles his way into an acting audition in Los Angeles. He gets paired up with a private detective played by Val Kilmer and they stumble upon a murder mystery. Michelle Monaghan also stars as an old high school crush of Downey’s that never quite made it in Hollywood as an actress. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a great neo-noir comedy that came and went in the movie theaters when it was released in 2005, but has found a cult following since then. It’s one of my favorite movies of that year and that decade.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

3. The Lovers (11/5 on Amazon Prime)

The Lovers is a little romantic comedy that came out with little fanfare back in May, making only $2.1 million at the box office, but reviews were very positive. Tracy Letts and Debra Winger star as a married couple that is estranged, but living together and engaging in extramarital affairs. Over the course of the movie they start to fall in love with one another again.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

4. Allied (11/10 on Amazon Prime)

This is the WWII film starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard that came out last November from director Robert Zemeckis. Pitt and Cotillard are two Allied spies that fall in love and later it turns out that she might be a double spy. Pitt and Cotillard are great together, but the story could be a little better. If for no other reason, see this for the incredible costume design, for which this film rightly received an Academy Award nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 59%

5. Landline (11/17 on Amazon Prime)

Obvious Child was a critical success of an indie comedy back in 2014 that starred SNL alum Jenny Slate. Slate reteams with the writers and director of that movie for this comedy about a mid-90s family comedy about two sisters who discover that their father, played by John Turturro, is having an affair. This is another film from earlier this year that had a limited theatrical run that I am glad to have a chance to get to as the year begins to wind down.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%

6. Jim & Andy (11/17 on Netflix)

Jim Carrey’s performance in Man in the Moon, the biopic about the late Andy Kaufman, was a big deal. Kaufman was a comedic genius in his time and Carrey was held in similarly high regard in the late 90s. It was also a departure from the broader comedies he had been known for, like Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber. This documentary looks behind the scenes at the making of the biopic and Jim Carrey’s process in becoming Andy Kaufman.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

7. Mudbound (11/17 on Netflix)

Mudbound is a Netflix original film from director Dee Rees who directed 2011’s Pariah and HBO’s 2016 TV movie Bessie. This film is about two men who return home to rural Mississippi from WWII to deal with racism and PTSD. Carey Muligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, and Mary J. Blige star in this ensemble drama. It’s received a lot of very positive reviews, and it will be interesting to see if it generates any kind of awards buzz considering that it is a Netflix film.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

8. The Boss Baby (11/22 on Netflix)

The Boss Baby was a very successful animated film from the spring starring the vocal talents of Alec Baldwin as the titular baby with an adult brain. This animated comedy is from DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox, which also made Captain Underpants, Home, Trolls, and plenty of other popular animated movies. I did not see it, but it had a long, long run at the box office
Rotten Tomatoes score: 52%

9. Fences (11/24 on Amazon Prime)

Denzel Washington directs and stars in this adaptation of the August Wilson play that he also performed on Broadway in 2010 and for which he and co-stars Viola Davis (who also reprises her role here) won Tony Awards. It’s an intimate story about a family in Pittsburgh struggling with generational issues between Troy (Washington), a garbage man and former Negro League baseball star, and his sons. Washington and Davis are great, as is the rest of the cast. It received four Academy Award nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

10. The Big Sick (11/24 on Amazon Prime)

A summer breakout, The Big Sick is an indie romantic comedy that became one of the most surprising movies of the summer, making $52 million at the box office and being talked about for awards almost right out the gate. It’s based on the real-life story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote the script together. Kumail stars as himself and Zoe Kazan stars as the movie version of Emily, and the film is about the incredible circumstances surrounding how they met, fell in and out of love, and how a big health scare almost took Emily’s life. It’s has a rare combination of humor and vulnerability and feels genuinely real-to-life. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano also are outstanding in supporting roles as Emily’s parents. It’s available on Black Friday, so after you’ve been through a crazy day or shopping, grab some Thanksgiving leftovers and enjoy one of the best films of the year.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%