OnStream: August 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 mostly focus 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 July.

For July, I said that the selection was leaner than previous months from the new titles, but this might be the worst month of new releases I’ve seen yet. I had a hard time coming up with 10 recommendations of newer titles, so there are going to be a few older movies than normal. Also, the scales are heavily in favor of Netflix over Amazon Prime for the titles being added, though Amazon Prime has its fair share of gems I did not list below.

1. The Matrix (8/1 on Netflix)

The Matrix is one of the most influential films of the last 20 years. Drawing from various different influences itself, it is the pinnacle of the Wachowski’s filmography. Keanu Reeves is the central figure, Neo, who discovers that he and the rest of humanity are living in a virtual construct of reality and that mankind is held in slavery to machines. Neo is freed by Morpheus and his crew to help in the fight against machines in freeing other humans from the Matrix. The rest of the trilogy is also available, but the less said about them the better.

2. Jackie Brown (8/1 on Netflix)

Speaking of highly influential films, Quentin Tarantino spawned a generation imitators with 1994’s Pulp Fiction. He followed it up with Jackie Brown, an adaptation of a Elmore Leonard novel. Pam Grier is the titular Jackie Brown, another showcase vehicle for a star from a previous generation, something that Tarantino has a habit of doing. Robert Forester, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, and Bridgette Fonda also star in this twisty crime thriller that is an underrated gem in Tarantino’s oeuvre.

3. Breakdown (8/1 on Amazon Prime)

Kurt Russell stars in this forgotten late 90s thriller about a husband whose wife disappears at a rest stop in the desert during a cross-country trip. J.T. Walsh, one of the legendary “That Guy” actors, gets a great role as a truck driver that Russell’s character is convinced abducted his wife, played by Kathleen Quinlan. M.C. Gainey, another great “That Guy” actor, is also involved. I haven’t seen this movie in the 20 or so years since it came out on video, but I remember there being some great paranoia moments and Russell is really great as the man who has to go to great lengths to find his wife.

4. High Noon (8/1 on Amazon Prime)

High Noon is a classic western. Gary Cooper stars as a sheriff who is about to retire when he is told that a man he sent to jail is returning for revenge. Deciding to face him, Cooper’s hero must face this man and his gang alone as the townspeople he has protected turn their backs on him. I have not seen this film, but it is considered a classic of the genre. It also won four Oscars. Grace Kelly also stars as the sheriff’s new bride.

5. The Founder (8/2 on Netflix)

This film featuring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, had super early buzz in 2016 as a potential Oscar contender, which wasn’t difficult to picture given the resurgent run Keaton has been on the last few years. In the end, it got an August release pushed back to a limited release in January and out of Oscar contention. Still, it garnered positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (84%) and is a movie I am looking forward to checking out as I missed my chance to see it in theaters.

6. Sing (8/3 on Netflix)

Another winter release that got lost in the end of the year shuffle for me, Sing is an animated feature about animals auditioning for a American Idol-type competition, or at least that was the impression I got from the previews I saw. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Scarlett Johansson lead a pretty loaded voice cast. It ended up making a very impressive $270 million. Garth Jennings, who also directed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Son of Rambow, directed this movie.

7. Icarus (8/4 on Netflix)

Netflix has gotten into the feature film industry, cornered the market on stand-up comedy specials this year, and has a robust TV series department. Maybe lesser known is that they have also gotten their hands on some terrific documentaries, both in-house and not. Icarus sounds like it could be one of those this year. It’s a documentary about a doctor and a reporter who are both doing research on doping in sports and stumble across the massive Russian effort to cheat in the summer and winter Olympics and even the Paralympics.

8. Gold (8/16 on Netflix)

This Matthew McConaughey film came and went at the end of 2016 and early 2017 with little notice. It’s the story of a prospector who hits it big with a gold mine in the 80s, lives the high life and eventually everything unravels. Reviews were not very kind, only 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, but McConaughey is so good that even if the film is a bit of a mess it should be worth checking out for McConaughey alone.

9. What Happened To Monday? (8/18 on Netflix)

What Happened To Monday? is a new film that will debut on Netflix. It’s a dystopian sci-fi movie starring Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe, and Glenn Close set in a world where grown septuplets live in secret and go out in public pretending to be one person because there is a government-imposed One-Child Policy due to overpopulation. No idea how good or bad this movie could be, but I’m always willing to keep an eye out for a good dystopian sci-fi film.

10. Florence Foster Jenkins (8/27 on Amazon Prime)

Meryl Streep is probably one of the surest things in movies when it comes to giving a good performance. Florence Foster Jenkins got a theatrical release nearly a year ago, but it did not interest me as a movie to see in the theater. It only made $27 million in theaters, so most people seemed share that sentiment. But this “stranger than fiction” biopic received good reviews and Streep got some awards season buzz for the role. Just because Meryl Streep’s acting ability is a given does not mean anything she does should be taken for granted. I may not have been interested in seeing it in the theater, but I will still try to make time to catch up with this.