OnStream: December 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. Here are 10 recommendations from the new streaming titles available in the month of December.

1. The Farthest: Voyager in Space (12/1 on Netflix)

This is a PBS documentary that details the journey of the Voyager 1 space probe through our galaxy and now beyond. Anyone who is a fan of sci-fi, space exploration, or science in general should probably check this out. Voyager has traveled the farthest from Earth of any man-made object. It looks fascinating.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

2. Silence (12/1 on Amazon Prime)

Martin Scorsese’s Silence is a passion project that he had wanted to make for decades. He finally got it made and released it at the end of last year. It came and went from the box office without much fanfare. When I was still doing Netflix through the mail, I saw it this summer and was blown away by the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to a hostile Japan looking for their apostate mentor. I was touched by how deeply religious the film is. Plus, anything Scorsese does is worth seeing. Adnrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson star.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (12/5 on Netflix)

Vol. 2 was a big hit this summer as the Guardians of the Freaking Galaxy returned and recaptured most of the spirit of the first movie. This time around they’ve added Kurt Russell as Peter Quill’s dad and Pom Klementieff as Mantis. Characters like Yondu and Nebula get some expanded roles this time around. And the humor and action from the first movie is still here in abundance.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

4. Crown Heights (12/8 on Amazon Prime)

Not a film that was on my radar until I was having a hard time coming up with 10 titles to list here, Crown Heights is a film based on a podcast episode of This American Life. It’s about a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and the fight to set him free. Literally, the only reason I am recommending the movie is because LaKeith Stanfield stars as the lead, and I think he is one of the best up and coming actors right now (Get Out, FX’s Atlanta).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

5. It Comes At Night (12/9 on Amazon Prime)

How best to describe the post-apocalyptic It Comes At Night? Well, it’s a horror, but an atypical horror film in that the menace is never really seen. It’s big on atmosphere and paranoia rather than blood and guts. The director is Trey Edward Shults, who made 2016’s Krisha, a low-budget horror story of its own (Thanksgiving with a dysfunctional family). I reviewed It Comes At Night back in June.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

6. Nightcrawler (12/10 on Amazon Prime)

No, this isn’t an X-Men spinoff about the blue devil, Kurt Wagner. This is arguably the best film of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy (Michael Clayton), it’s about the fast-paced, hyper-competitive world of stringers (freelance photojournalists), embodied in Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom. Gyllenhaal has maybe never been better than he is here as the chilling Bloom, and he has certainly never been creepier. Rene Russo gives a great supporting performance here too. Nightcrawler was one of the best films of 2014.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

7. Bright (12/22 on Netflix)

This is a Netflix original film from director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Fury, End of Watch, Training Day). While Ayer’s Suicide Squad may have been a misfire, he nails war/police thrillers. Bright looks like a fantasy version of the 80s movie Alien Nation; this time around it’s mythical creatures that exist in the real world alongside humans. Will Smith’s human cop works alongside an orc cop, played by Joel Edgerton in Los Angeles.
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

8. Creep 2 (12/23 on Netflix)

This is a sequel to a “found footage” horror movie from a few years ago. It stars Mark Duplass, who reprises his role from the original film as a man who hires a videographer and plays increasingly sadistic mind games that eventually stop being games. Having seen a trailer for this, I’m struggling to see how they change up the story from the first one, but I am encouraged by the Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%, so that means that they must have found some way to put a fresh spin on it.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

9. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (12/31 on Amazon Prime)

I have yet to see a trailer for this film, but I have heard enough to pique my interest. Vince Vaughn stars in this thriller about a former boxer-turned-drug-dealer who is sent to jail. Once there, he discovers that his wife’s life is in danger unless he kills someone on the inside. I’ve heard that Vaughn’s performance is unlike anything he has done before.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

10. Dave Chapelle: Equanimity (12/31 on Netflix)

Look, it’s been a rough year. But one of the highlights of streaming this year is that Netflix has made a dedicated effort to champion stand-up comedy. Dave Chappelle released a two-part stand-up special earlier this year and it was great. Some people go out and party on New Year’s Eve. Some people stay in on New Year’s Eve. Some people gather with friends and celebrate the New Year. Maybe you’re gathering with friends and playing games or hanging out until the ball drops. Why not pop on Chappelle’s latest and share a few laughs on Netflix before turning the TV to the ball dropping at midnight? There are far worse ways to close out 2017.
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A%