Crossing the Streams: August 2018, by Jim Rohner
Congratulations! With your recent purchase of a brand new Roku/Apple TV/Amazon Fire Stick you’re ready to – as Obi-Wan Kenobi said – take your first step into a larger world. That larger world is, of course, the world of cord cutting in which a seemingly endless supply of streaming apps, services, and content are available instantaneously at your fingertips. But with so many options of things to watch spread out across so many different services changing literally by the day, what’s worth binge watching before it expires and you’d have to – (GASP) – pay for it? Allow Crossing the Streams to be your official guide to what’s worth watching before it expires, what’s just been made available, and what’s just plain damn good.
Watch It Now
I can only write so much about how much I both relish the summer for the opportunities it presents to stay inside and watch things with the air conditioning turned on and also how much I hate it for, well…basically everything else. Even though Fall is allegedly right around the corner, the humidity is regularly punching us in the face and telling us to get back inside. I don’t condone disagreeing with Mother Nature, but I do condone watching movies and TV shows, especially the titles below, which aren’t going to be sticking around forever.
The ‘Burbs (Amazon/Hulu): Like many mainstream filmmakers of an older generation, Joe Dante has had to repurpose himself into a TV director in order to find regular directing work. But that doesn’t mean that the films he created during his creative peak have faded from memory or resonance. A fan of genre filmmaking and a master of satire, Dante loved exploring the darkness buried underneath the idyllic and arguably the apex of his explorations was the 1989 comedy The ‘Burbs. Starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, and the late Rick Ducommun, the film revolves around a group of suburbanites trying to figure out if their new, reclusive neighbors are murderous Satanists. Delightfully twisted, The ‘Burbs is a perfect blend of the cynicism of horror cinema and the superficial idealism of the Reagan era. Like so many front lawns, the streaming rights to this one will soon be dead, so check it out before August 31st.
Brokeback Mountain (Hulu): Without consulting any historical record, I’m going to go ahead and say that Ang Lee is the only director who has won multiple Best Director Oscars without the associated film winning Best Picture.* It happened most recently with the visually stunning Life of Pi, but the first instance was the controversial upset in which Crash bested Brokeback Mountain, the alleged surefire favorite going into the Oscar ceremony in 2006. That’s not only a shame because the win was undeserved, but also because the regret of the award has overshadowed one of the films it bested. Brokeback Mountain is still an absolutely beautiful film, with its phenomenal performances from Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michelle Williams accented by the evocative score of Gustavo Santaolalla and luscious cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto. Lee’s output since Brokeback Mountain hasn’t exactly inspired awe (Lust, Caution, Taking Woodstock, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), but this film still does. It expires from Hulu on August 31st.
Back to the Future Trilogy (HBO Now): My girlfriend and I have compiled and continue to add to a “Must See List,” a collection of movie and TV titles that either one or both of us want to watch or re-watch. We add titles to it quicker than we cross them off, but the most recent strikethrough comes courtesy of the Back to the Future trilogy. The exploits of Marty McFly and “Doc” Emmett Brown need no rehashing here as even younger Millennials are aware of a DeLorean accelerating up to 88 miles per hour as a cultural touchstone. While more contemporary time travel stories (Primer, 12 Monkeys, Dark [we’ll get to that last one in a bit]) tend to focus on the imminence or permanence of time, Back to the Future was a fun adventure that was unapologetically optimistic about our ability to change our destinies. For many of us, Michael J. Fox will always be that self-conscious teenager and Christopher Lloyd that eccentric scientist – it’s not limitations, it’s iconography. However, just as Biff’s Pleasure Palace faded from existence, so too will Back to the Future fade from HBO. You’ve got until August 31st.
Pariah (Netflix): You might not have known the name of Dee Rees before last year’s fantastic Mudbound but that doesn’t mean that the Tennessee-born filmmaker was idle before then. Based on a short film that she directed while at NYU, Pariah is a semi-autobiographical tale about an African-American teen struggling with sexuality and identity. The film won her Breakthrough Director at the Gotham Awards and the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards and she wrangled that success into the award-winning HBO movie Bessie. Pariah expires on August 16th.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
HBO Now: Diner (8/31), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (8/31), Sex and the City the Movie (8/31), Final Destination (8/31), The Great Muppet Caper (8/31), Tremors (8/31), West Side Story (8/31)
Hulu: A Beautiful Mind (8/31), Analyze This (8/31), Baby Mama (8/31), The Brothers Grimm (8/31), Clue (8/31), Event Horizon (8/31), Hellboy (8/31), My Left Foot (8/31), Rain Man (8/31), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (8/31), Trainspotting (8/31)
Netflix: Sausage Party (8/23), The Road (8/25)
*Seriously, I didn’t look up anything
Watch It Later
All of the titles mentioned in this section have either just been made available, will be available soon, or their rights have recently been renewed. Either way, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Shaun of the Dead (Hulu): A couple of years ago I attempted to talk in depth about my Top Ten Favorite Films for Tyler’s More Than One Lesson and in the top half of that list was Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. While both Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg have found major financial success separately – Wright with Baby Driver and Pegg with both the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises – they’ll go down in film history together thanks to their Cornetto Trilogy: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. As a fan of zombie films, I was predisposed to connect with Shaun of the Dead, but it’s more than just its genre callbacks that make me love it. Wright’s first film was so assured – whip smart with its comedy and unapologetically paying homage to its influences while utilizing them for its own benefit. Also, at the end of the day, it was the story of a lazy guy who could rise to the occasion and earn the right to be lazy. Check it out sometime when you’re being lazy. You don’t even have to do it soon. It’s been available since August 1st.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (HBO Now): I have absolutely no desire to see The Predator but I’m happy that Shane Black got the chance to make it because he’s a filmmaker with a unique voice (and because The Nice Guys deserved much more money and acclaim than it received). Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was Black’s return to film after a nine-year hiatus and is, at the risk of being hyperbolic, brilliant. Starring Robert Downey Jr. before he became Iron Man and Val Kilmer before he became the butt of every joke, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a hilarious and self-aware deconstruction of LA noir thrillers based in part on the novel “Bodies Are Where You Find Them” by Brett Halliday. These days it might be a bit disorienting seeing the man who’s synonymous with the cocky Tony Stark being steamrolled by anyone but the relationship dynamic between the weaselly thief (Downey Jr.) and the arrogant private investigator (Kilmer) is a large part of what makes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang such an effective deconstruction of tried and true genre conventions. It would be difficult for me to decide on what I think is the most hilarious moment of the film, but if I had to pick just one, it would probably be the sound bite that opens my podcast. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve listened to that dressing down, but if you’ve never heard it until now, you’ve been able to add a few more counts on HBO since August 1st.
Channel Zero Season 1 (Shudder): Last month I wrote a little bit about the difficulties of adapting horror to TV in regards to Castle Rock (on which the jury is still out, if you ask me) but imagine the uphill battle that creators face when adapting an internet property that has such a rabid, niche fanbase as creepypasta. If the mainstream reaction to both Slender Man adaptations is an accurate litmus test, then a singular persona’s interpretation of vague and intangible crowd-sourced horrors is doomed to fail. Yet that didn’t stop Nick Antosca from creating Channel Zero, a show in which each self-contained season focuses on a different creepypasta. Season 1’s focus is on the fictional show of “Candle Cove,” and involves a child psychologist returning to his hometown to find out what its connection is to mysterious child disappearances. Not only has the show produced four seasons, but it’s also been remarkably well-received. Explore the mystery for yourself on Shudder, where the season has been streaming since August 1st.
The Good Place Season 2 (Netflix): It’s been a long time since NBC’s reign of sitcom superiority. For years it seemed that for every 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation that they greenlit, there were two more Outsourced or 1600 Penn or (heavy sigh) Mulaney. But in recent years, it seems like NBC is regaining some of the reputation and prestige it lost by producing shows like Superstore, Trial & Error, and most prominently, The Good Place. Created by Michael Schur, who also created Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the show stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop who, despite being quite an awful person while alive, has found herself mistakenly housed in “the Good Place” after her death. How this mix-up occurred and what shenanigans it invokes are not for me to say, but the show is hilarious, heart-warming, and ended on such a jaw-dropping twist that ash holes like me who didn’t keep up with season 2 were eager for the day that the entire season would be ready to binge. That day, August 28th, will soon be here. I am so forking excited.
Mother! (Amazon/Hulu): Mother! is neither an easy film to describe nor to sit through. Marketed as a horror film, loathed by audiences and received tepidly by critics, the intimate yet ambitious film is an angry and convoluted meditation on just about every hot button political and social issue that’s been boiling the Darren Aronofsky’s blood for the last few years. Mother! is basically a glorified student film with Aronofsky’s unbridled tirades coming to life in some very on the nose symbolism. The writer/director casts a wide net in what he’s trying to criticize and while the result is a messy and somewhat incoherent film, there is some catharsis to be found in the meditations of an artist and his anger and something to admire about his ambitions. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s worth seeing once, which can be done come August 26th.
Crime + Punishment (Hulu): I know nothing about this Hulu-exclusive documentary so, rather than try and fumble my way through something, I’ll let the good folks at Vulture tell you about it: “This Hulu original documentary tells the story of twelve whistle-blowers in the New York Police Department hoping to put a stop to one of the most harmful policies in policing — one that the department was supposed to have ended years ago. In 2010, the NYPD ended quotas for arrests and summonses, but five years later, a group of minority NYPD officers filed a lawsuit alleging that the department was still very much run on quotas. Crime + Punishment chronicles those officers’ efforts in a time when the relationship between police and the communities they protect is the tensest it’s been in years. Available August 24th.”
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: Get Shorty (8/1), Hoosiers (8/1), High Noon (8/1), The Hurt Locker (8/1), Jacob’s Ladder (8/1), The Blair Witch Project (8/1), The Elephant Man (8/1), The Usual Suspects (8/1), Watchmen (8/1), Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1 (8/31)
HBO Now: Fargo (8/1), The Verdict (8/1), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (8/4), Murder on the Orient Express (8/11), Ballers Season 4 Premiere (8/12), Insecure Season 3 Premiere (8/12), Darkest Hour (8/18)
Hulu: Babe (8/1), Black Hawk Down (8/1), Extract (8/1), Jackie Brown (8/1), Point Break (8/1), The Rock (8/1), Role Models (8/16), Jiro Dreams of Sushi (8/23), Gangs of New York (8/26), The Terminator (8/31)
Netflix: Once in a Lifetime Sessions with Noel Gallagher (8/1), Ozark Season 2 (8/31), The Aviator (8/1), Batman Begins (8/1), Clerks (8/1), Gran Torino (8/1), The Informant! (8/1), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (8/1), Million Dollar Baby (8/1), Stripes (8/1), No Country for Old Men (8/11)
Showtime: 10 Things I Hate About You (8/1), Lost in Translation (8/1)
Just Watch It
Somewhere in between the titles that are expiring and the titles that have just entered this world lay those that we’ve either taken for granted, forgotten about, or just plain didn’t realize we could watch for free. Let’s fix that because they’re damn good and they’re waiting for you.
Dark (Netflix): It was Albert Einstein who said, “The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Keep that quote in mind at every minute of watching Dark, the first German-language series to be produced for Netflix. Seeming at first to simply be a Stranger Things imitator – unexplained disappearances are happening in a small town living in the shadow of a large, secretive scientific establishment – Dark soon reveals itself to be so much darker in both tone and existential themes. It’s difficult to say much about the show without revealing something spoilery about its dense, intricate plot but I will offer that the show’s views on mankind’s fate is in stark contrast to the aforementioned Back to the Future, in which the final installment ends with Doc jovially telling Jennifer and Marty that no one’s fate has yet been written. The residents of Winden would insist otherwise. Fate, Dark would imply, is not something that can be changed, but merely something that must be understood and maintained. Think less Back to the Future and more Primer, but spread across 10 hours and with more people slapping each other.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Netflix): Having said all that, I don’t believe that existence and the greater forces at work is something to be feared. On the contrary – just because mankind’s appearance on the cosmic scene is both recent and random doesn’t mean that what we’ve been able to achieve and understand is any less special or significant. Inspired by the original Cosmos created by his hero and mentor, Carl Sagan, this contemporary iteration sees astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson use his so-called “ship of the imagination” to illuminate viewers on the cosmic forces that have brought about our creation and order while also exploring the past to educate us on the various scientific pioneers from all across the globe who are responsible for the breakthrough discoveries that have helped us understand and appreciate this amazing planet on which we live. It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and in a day and age in which science is being pushed aside for the sake of opinion and agenda, the beauty and profundity of Cosmos comes into even sharper focus. Joining Neil deGrasse Tyson’s dulcet tones are also the Emmy-winning score of Alan Silvestri and the eye-popping visuals of Bill Pope.
Bo Burnham: Make Happy (Netflix): Not sure if you’re aware of this but comedian Bo Burnham has released his first feature film and it’s pretty good. Eighth Grade deals with themes of questioning what makes people happy and the identity that people put forth into the world, which is ground the comedian has been exploring for years in his standup. In 2016, Burnham put out Make Happy, a three-year endeavor in which he explores the façade that celebrity culture broadcasts as the overly simple things that we need to adopt in order to become – or, at the very least, appear – happy. Burnham isn’t as interested in delivering an equally simplistic answer of “just be yourself” because he recognizes that life cannot be distilled so simply, looking no further than his own celebrity presence on stage attempting to establish his own perspectives while also seeking the approval and acceptance of his audience. If those that presume to have the answers are also at the same time seeking validation for the conclusions at which they arrived, then who are they – who is anybody? – to tell you how you should view, and be viewed by, the world?
Gently Down the Stream…
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly then you’ve already picked up on the fact it’s published mid-month. This is primarily done for the purposes of time; mainly how much I don’t have of it and how much of it I take to do research and compile the plethora of titles and the platforms on which they stream for me to write about here. Often, however, many titles expire before the blog is published and even before I sit down to write it, meaning that a whole host of great content is lost before you even click. In light of that, here’s a brief recap of the titles that have expired between the publishing of the last “Crossing the Streams” entry and this one. Just like characters in comic books though, streaming titles never truly die; they just reappear at later dates in venues that don’t make as much sense, so stay tuned!
Netflix: The Killing Seasons 1 – 3, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, 13 Assassins, Welcome to Me, The 40-Year Old Virgin