OnStream: September 2017

Ken Jones

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 September.

1. Boy (9/1 on Amazon Prime)

Thor: Ragnarok is coming out this November. Before he was handed the reins of this franchise by Marvel, director Taika Waititi made a name for himself in New Zealand and abroad for some inventive and unique comedies, including Eagle vs Shark, What We Do in the Shadows, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Boy is a film that Waititi made back in 2010 and is his only feature film I have no seen yet. It’s about a boy named Boy who idolizes his father and Michael Jackson. Given that I liked Eagle vs Shark and absolutely loved What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I expect that I will like this one as well.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

2. Lars and the Real Girl (9/1 on Amazon Prime)

Lars and the Real Girl is a little gem from 2007 that is genuinely one of my favorite films. Ryan Gosling is Lars, an extremely introverted and emotionally walled off man who lives in a small, tight-knit community who buys a sex doll online and begins a (non-sexual) relationship with the doll, that he has named Bianca. Realizing that Lars is clearly troubled, the people in Lars life accept Bianca into their lives as a way of helping and reaching Lars. It’s definitely a quirky indie movie, but I think it’s also one of the most touching examples of community and neighborly love that I have seen expressed on screen.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81% 

3. Graduation (9/4 on Netflix)

This is the latest film from Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, known best for his films 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Beyond the Hills. His films do not sit easily, and this one sounds no different as the story revolves around a father whose daughter is assaulted right on the cusp of taking tests to graduate, move away to study abroad, and start her life. The film was a Palme d’Or nominee at Cannes and Mungiu himself won Best Director at Cannes, an award he split with Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

4. The Magnificent Seven (2016) (9/9 on Amazon Prime)


Out on Amazon Prime about a year after its theatrical release is Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the classic western, The Magnificent Seven, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai . Denzel Washington, a frequent Fuqua collaborator, takes on the Yul Brynner role as the leader of the ragtag group of misfits that band together to free a town from the underneath the vicious control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke are just some of the other names that populate the crew defending the people. It’s definitely not on the same level of its predecessors, but it’s perfectly fine as an action movie.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%

5. Frantz (9/11 on Amazon Prime)

This is a foreign film from Germany that is a remake of a 1932 Ernst Lubitsch film, Broken Lullaby. It’s set in post-WWI Germany, where a woman whose fiancé died during the war meets a Frenchman who visits their town. It turns out that he is the man who killed her fiancé and feels deep remorse over it. From what I have read, it is a thoughtful film about the void left for many after war is over. It’s also shot in black and white, but don’t let that deter you; some more recent black and white films are some of the most visually impressive (Ida, for instance).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

6. First They Killed My Father (9/15 on Netflix)

This is the film from Angelina Jolie that is an adaptation of a memoir about the experience of one girl living in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge years. Sadly, this Netflix original has been eclipsed by controversy surrounding an article detailing some questionable casting calls that Jolie conducted during the making of the film. It’s too bad, because an adaptation like this, done right and by someone with the profile of Jolie, can bring attention to the atrocities of the past that occurred on the opposite side of the world away from western eyes. To my eyes, this has the potential to be as relevant as the documentaries that Joshua Oppenheimer made about Indonesian genocide, The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. I hope this film gets a chance.
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

7. Beauty and the Beast (9/19 on Netflix)

Given that this live action adaptation of the beloved 1992 animated feature is the highest grossing film at the box office so far this year, it’s hard to imagine that there are a lot of people who have not seen this yet. However, earlier this month Disney announced that they will launch their own streaming service in 2019, so who knows how this might impact the relationship between Netflix and Disney between now and then. Aside from that bit of news, Beauty and the Beast will still release September 19th. Despite the massive box office, the reception of the film was mixed. It suffered from the runtime being padded out by another hour. And people were torn on the musical performances of a few of the cast members. My review was one of the first I posted for this site.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%

8. Carol (9/20 on Netflix)


Carol is an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel by director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There). It’s about a young woman who enters into a relationship with an older, married woman in the 1950s. This film is a showcase for the acting talents of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, both of whom received Oscar nominations for their performances, two of the six nominations the film received overall. It also features gorgeous cinematography.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

9. Elian (9/23 on Amazon Prime)

Memory is a funny thing. I could have sworn that the Elian Gonzalez news story occurred in 1999, during my senior year of high school, but it actually happened in 2000, during my freshman year of college. Elian Gonzalez was a young child from Cuba who was brought to the United States and got caught up in a huge international custody battle because his mom drowned while trying to make it to the United States. It was a giant news story, forever immortalized by a picture of a terrified Elian being taken from the arms of a relative in his closet by an armed officer. This film is a documentary about the event and the child, now a young man, at the center of the storm.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

10. Gerald’s Game (9/29 on Netflix)

There is a lot of anticipation for the theatrical release of Stephen King’s It, a remake of the 1990 miniseries. Reports are that it is legitimately scary. At the end of the month, though, we are treated to another Stephen King adaptation. This Netflix original is about a married couple who plays a harmless sex game at a remote location that results in the husband dying and the wife being tied to the bed. She has to fight the demons in her head and possibly things lurking in the house to survive. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star.
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A