Crossing the Streams: July 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
First and foremost, please allow me to sincerely apologize for the lack of Crossing the Streams during June. Apparently, the vacation brain that developed during an extended trip to Southern California is yet to be shaken off, resulting in a lethargy that has mostly manifested itself in the form of my girlfriend and I huddled together in the air conditioning plowing through a list of titles we’ve been meaning to either watch or revisit while her cat passive-aggressively pushes things off the coffee table in an effort to get us to go to bed. I have been lazy, and I apologize. To make up for it, July’s iteration of Crossing the Streams will be mega stuffed like so many of the Oreos that I’ve recently consumed, which will give you plenty of titles in which to indulge since – let’s be honest with ourselves – we’re all looking for excuses not to leave the air conditioning unless it’s absolutely vital to our survival anyway. I’d recommend starting with one of the following titles, which will soon be suffering the same fate of ice cubes in the summer sun.
Get Out (HBO Now): Get Out revealed to all of us that not only was Jordan Peele the next big name in horror cinema but also that the sentiment of “I’m not racist, but…” can manifest itself in the form of a film review too. The film had its detractors – the imminent result of any property so aggressively hyped – but at the end of the day, the film made for less than $5 million grossed over $250 million worldwide, picked up an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay to go along with 3 other nominations, and ensured that Peele will surely usurp my dream of creating an H.P. Lovecraft Cinematic Universe. Showing up on just about everybody’s Top 10 list for 2017, Get Out is a horror film in the tradition of classic American horror films, crafting a terrifying intimate story that serves as a microcosm for larger horrors that are as old as the country itself. The fear doesn’t seem to be dissipating, but the title soon will, disappearing off HBO on July 31st.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (HBO Now): Edgar Wright hadn’t really had a clear box office smash until last year’s Baby Driver (more on that title in a little bit) but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was his first film that was an unquestionable box office bomb. And that’s a shame because, with the amazing cast (Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman), Bill Pope’s cinematography, and Edgar Wright’s talent for kinetic, comedic editing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a hilarious and unique alternative for people who may be getting tired of the homogeneous palettes that Marvel and DC are providing in the way of adaptations. Perhaps Michael Bacall’s source material wasn’t well known enough to attract any more than just a niche crowd, but audiences largely ignored the film and even within Wright’s catalog it seems to be overlooked. Check out HBO before July 31st or risk being so sad, so very, very sad.
Throw Momma from the Train (Hulu): Danny DeVito’s directing career hasn’t been expansive but it has been eclectic. The feature directorial work of actor now primarily known for his role as Frank in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has spanned from kid-friendly (Matilda) to critically-acclaimed (Hoffa) to just plain weird (Death to Smoochy), but it was all kicked off in 1987 with Throw Momma from the Train. A comedic slant on Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, the film stars DeVito as Owen, a meek writing student who misinterprets advice that his teacher, Larry (Billy Crystal), gives him about writing a murder mystery and takes it upon himself to kill Larry’s ex-wife. All Owen wants in exchange is for Larry to murder his mother (Anne Ramsey in an Oscar-nominated role). Infinitely quotable, touching, and more than a little macabre, Throw Momma from the Train is a hidden gem that hasn’t been recalled nearly as strongly as some of the comedies it out-grossed when it was released in 1987 (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Adventures in Babysitting, Innerspace, Overboard). Discover it on Hulu before it expires July 31st.
Dirty Pretty Things (Hulu): In college, my screenwriting professor loved showing us the kinds of films that we wouldn’t have seen were it not for our film school education. Sure, we all studied the brilliance of Pulp Fiction’s non-chronological structure and marveled at the multiple twists and turns of Chinatown, but she also showed us Sweet Smell of Success, Raise the Red Lantern, and – most vividly and most relevant to this blog – Dirty Pretty Things. Written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders) and directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena), Dirty Pretty Things has – like all good art – found new relevance thanks to how the current societal tide is changing. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou in her first English-speaking role, the film examines the circumstances that have lead many illegal immigrants to live lives they wouldn’t have otherwise chosen and how those in power can and will leverage those circumstances for their own purposes (coincidentally, 2002 also saw the release of another brilliant tale of immigrant struggles, Jim Sheridan’s In America). It expires from Hulu on July 31st.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
HBO Now: Good Morning, Vietnam (7/31), Pitch Black (7/31), Sideways (7/31)
Hulu: Braveheart (7/31), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (7/31), Traffic (7/31), Wayne’s World 2 (7/31)
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, which is good, because there’s really no reason to head outside when it’s in the mid-90s with 1000% humidity. This month’s section will feature some titles that premiered in June to go along with those new for July.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Netflix): While we’re all waiting for the incels to remake Rian Johnson’s entry into the Star Wars canon, we’re stuck with the version that we currently have, which is fine by me since I consider it to be the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy as well as one of the ten best films of last year. The Last Jedi was a seismic shift in the Star Wars universe, officially handing the franchise off to a new generation of actors and characters while spiritually opening up the Force to anyone. In many ways a subversion and deconstruction of everything that came before it, The Last Jedi was divisive among fans and, though grossing over $1 billion worldwide, was considered a box office disappointment arguably because of how new and bold it was. I, for one, am excited about the direction The Last Jedi will cause Episode IX to take and am curious about what an entire trilogy from the mind of Rian Johnson will look like. The film has been available on Netflix since June 26th, but maybe don’t wait too long before the Empire gets its hands on it.
The Staircase (Netflix): Netflix knows that you’ll watch anything under the true crime umbrella but rather than seeking out something new to set the internet ablaze a la Making a Murderer, it returned to – or, perhaps more accurately, revisited – a story that had been told before. The Staircase, created by Oscar-winning documentarian Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, was originally released as an 8-episode series in 2004 documenting the arrest of Michael Peterson for the alleged murder of his wife, building the defense of her death as an accidental fall down the stairs, and the trial and verdict. New developments in the case led to the creation of 3 more episodes in 2014 and this year saw the creation of 3 final episodes as well as the release of the entire 13-episode compilation. While the Staircase filmmakers certainly have an opinion as to Peterson’s guilt or innocence, their focus is more on supporting the thesis that he was never going to get a fair trial due to biases in both societal perceptions of Peterson’s bisexuality and scientific experts twisting findings to benefit the prosecution. The question on the poster for The Staircase is “Did He Do It?”, but a more accurate one would be, “Is Justice Really Blind?” Decide for yourself – the show has been available since June 8th.
GLOW Season 2 (Netflix): The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are back in one of the best Netflix original creations (according to 18 – 49-year olds) in the history of the streaming giant. After the success of their first live show at the end of season 1, Sam (Marc Maron), Ruth (Alison Brie), Debbie (Betty Gilpin), and the rest of the ladies return for a new season of GLOW complete with a new set, new contracts, and a new cast member. Tensions begin to arise when Ruth tries to flex her directorial muscles and when Debbie insists on more creative input as the show’s #1 star. Sadly, the amazing opening credits are still only reserved for the premiere episode, but their awesomeness is matched by the premiere also being directed by Lynn Shelton. All 10 episodes of the new season have been available since June 29th.
Thor: Ragnarok (Netflix): The first two Thor movies were so dull and dour with such uninteresting villains that it was hard to take them seriously. So Marvel had the brilliant idea to stop taking the franchise so seriously and hired director Taika Waititi (What We Do In the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) to take it in a new direction. Franchise regulars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, and Idris Elba are joined by newcomers Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, and Jeff Goldblum in a film that joins Guardians of the Galaxy in breaking the MCU mold by being so damn fun to watch. According to Waititi, about 80% of the film’s dialogue was either improvised or ad-libbed, resulting in sequences like the opening monologue and the hammer scene. It’s a sharp contrast to the recently released Avengers: Infinity War, but considering how audiences generally seemed to respond to that, it’s probably healthy to have something to laugh at. If you need something to help reset your palate after the exploits of Thanos, perhaps revisit Thor: Ragnarok, available since June 5th.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (Netflix): Comedians often get their start on the fringe. Find a comedian who got into comedy because they were first popular, wealthy, or born into a position of power and chances are you’ve found a very mediocre comedian indeed. Laughter, both as a response and the ability to create it, often develops as a defense mechanism and the most common and natural comedic defense is self-deprecation. Hannah Gadsby recognizes this. Hannah Gadsby partakes in it. But Hannah Gadsby isn’t sure she wants to indulge it anymore. Nanette contains a fair number of laughs at the expense of a few people – Gadsby herself, a man who had opinions on Vincent Van Gogh, another man who assumed Gadsby was coming onto his girlfriend – but the brilliance and power of the hour comes not from the laughs, but from the personal depths the comedian goes to in order to explore the social dynamic of where jokes come from. “Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes to someone who is already in the margins?” she asks. “It’s not humility. It’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak.” You’re just as likely to cry as you are to laugh, but both responses make you a part of the story she’s trying to tell. She’s been telling it on Netflix since June 19th.
Lady Bird (Amazon): Not all actors who make the leap behind the camera find their debut work nominated for multiple Academy Awards but that’s the position Greta Gerwig found herself in when her first solo effort, Lady Bird, snagged five Oscar nods including only the fifth ever Best Director nomination for a woman. The coming of age tale starring Saoirse Ronan is brilliant for its honesty about the love-hate relationship that exists between parents and children and how the evolution of the concepts of both home and self are often as painful as they are subtle. Ronan’s phenomenal leading performance is matched and upheld by Laurie Metcalf in the role of her overtaxed but well-meaning mother. It’s been available to stream since June 3rd.
The Americans Season 6 (Amazon): The final season of FX’s Cold War spy drama may very well be its best. Taking place three years after where we left Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) at the end of season 5, season 6 sees already established tension further congealing between the married spies as Philip tries unsuccessfully to maintain the illusion of the American dream while Elizabeth tries equally unsuccessfully to shoulder a workload that should be reserved for two. In addition, the matriarch is attempting to mentor their daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), about getting into the family business as the 1987 Washington Summit inches closer. Bafflingly overlooked by major award bodies (two Emmys for Margo Martindale are the only statues the show has managed to snag) this is the show’s last and best chance for the Academy to validate what we’ve known all along: that The Americans is (well, was) the best show on television. Catch up on seasons 1 – 5 in preparation of saying goodbye on July 29th.
Rick and Morty Season 3 (Hulu): It took me years to be willing to watch anything from French New Wave filmmakers after college, not because I hated any of the films but because I hated the people who loved the films. Today, many might find themselves in the same position when it comes to Rick and Morty, a brilliant, hilarious, and incredibly dark cartoon created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland that unfortunately has spawned a fanbase so toxic and entitled that even Harmon “loathes” them. They, however, shouldn’t take away from the existential genius and emotional complexities of a show that dares to raise questions about mankind’s relationships both intimate and cosmological that even serious serial dramas don’t dare to tackle. Also, it has the genius grandfather turning himself into a pickle in order to avoid dealing with his emotions. The third and last season (for a while, at least) has been available since June 23rd.
Castle Rock Season 1 (Hulu): Even in the age of streaming, horror TV has been hard to do well. Sure, The Walking Dead is and has been a phenomena for a while, but Lore didn’t exactly set Amazon ablaze, Wayward Pines only lasted for two seasons, and Hemlock Grove, while popular with audiences, was almost universally critically reviled. Still, 11.22.63 was a marginal success for Hulu, so they’re jumping into a Stephen King multiverse with Castle Rock. Executive produced by J.J. Abrams and starring Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, Castle Rock takes place in the titular town and seems poised to be a veritable collection of Easter eggs from all across the horror master’s vast collection. The trailer alone points to references to The Shawshank Redemption and Cujo, as well as a few actors who have shown up in past adaptations so it’s a safe bet that you’ll probably be squealing “I read that one!” at many points throughout the show’s first season, which will be premiering on July 25th.
It (HBO Now): Speaking of Pennywise, the shapeshifting clown with a fondness for sewers and devouring children can now be found in your living room! The feature-length adaptation of the Stephen King book became a cultural force last year, raking in over $700 million worldwide and making us all forget that Tim Curry was the face of our nightmares for over 30 years (somewhere, Cary Joji Fukunaga is silently weeping). Eschewing the chronological back and forth of the original novel, It focuses on the protagonists’ lives in the summer of 1989, giving us three-dimensional child characters and relationships worthy of the comparison to Stranger Things (and not just because of the presence of Finn Wolfhard). Will it go down as a horror classic? Not likely, but no movie moment scared me more last year than the projector scene. We’ve all been floating down here since June 30th.
Sharp Objects (HBO Now): If you weren’t aware of Gillian Flynn before she adapted Gone Girl from her own novel, you certainly were after David Fincher brought her dark, cynical murder mystery to life. Now, Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fright Night) has tackled the job of adapting the author’s darkness, creating the Sharp Objects mini-series for HBO. Early word for the series starring Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson seems quite positive, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise for fans of either Noxon or Jean-Marc Vallée, who’s pulling a Big Little Lies and directing every episode (which seemed to work out well last time). Episodes will air weekly on HBO, with the first episode having premiered on July 8th.
Baby Driver (Showtime Anytime): Let’s be clear about one thing: Baby Driver is not a good movie. Despite its meticulous direction and editing, Baby Driver’s script is completely braindead, featuring a one-dimensional, white savior protagonist who is part of a nonsensical love story while being challenged by an antagonist who is not built up enough to be threatening at all. Also, it co-stars Kevin fucking Spacey. The only thing that I dislike even more than Baby Driver is the inescapable reality that we’re likely getting a sequel because it made so much more money than any of the far superior titles that Edgar Wright has done before. But a lot of you seem to have really liked it for some reason, so you can watch it when it comes to Showtime on July 14th. But don’t.
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: Babylon 5 Seasons 1 -5 (6/1), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (6/1), Day of the Dead (6/1), Event Horizon (6/1), The Age of Innocence (6/1), The Burbs (6/1), The Disaster Artist (6/1), The Running Man (6/1), Transformers: The Last Knight (6/16), Shutter Island (6/26), A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (7/1), American Psycho (7/1), All Is Lost (7/1), Blazing Saddles (7/1), Gran Torino (7/1), Mulholland Drive (7/1), Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (7/1), Stripes (7/1), The Brother’s Bloom (7/1), The Graduate (7/1), Witness (7/1), Zodiac (7/1), Max Steel (7/20)
HBO Now: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (6/1), Napoleon Dynamite (6/1), X2: X-Men United (6/1), A Cure for Wellness (6/1), Blade Runner 2049 (6/2), Kingsman: The Golden Circle (6/23), Being John Malkovich (7/1), Good Will Hunting (7/1), Liar Liar (7/1), The Princess Bride (7/1), Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (7/16)
Hulu: Apollo 13 (6/1), Brokeback Mountain (6/1), Hellboy (6/1), The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (6/1), Punch Drunk Love (6/1), Trainspotting (6/1), The House That October Built I&II (6/15), Transformers: The Last Knight (6/16), Shutter Island (6/26), A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (7/1), All Is Lost (7/1), American Psycho (7/1), Before Midnight (7/1), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (7/1), The Brother’s Bloom (7/1), Clue (7/1), Election (7/1), This Is Spinal Tap (7/1), Embrace of the Serpent (7/20)
Netflix: The Break with Michelle Wolf (6/3), Portlandia: Season 8 (6/10), Queer Eye: Season 2 (6/15), Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 6 (6/15), Luke Cage: Season 2 (6/22), Nailed It!: Season 2 (6/29), The Departed (6/1), Miracle (6/1), The King’s Speech (6/2), Cutie and the Boxer (6/14), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (6/15), In Bruges (6/16), Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: New 2018: Freshly Brewed (7/6), Orange is the New Black: Season 6 (7/27), Finding Neverland (7/1), Jurassic Park (7/1), Blue Valentine (7/5), Gone Baby Gone 7/12), Her (7/29)
Showtime Anytime: Life During Wartime (6/1), Margin Call (6/1), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (7/1), Inglourious Basterds (7/1), Jurassic Park (7/1), The Rock (7/1), War Horse (7/1)
Just Watch It
Somewhere in between the titles that are expiring and the titles that have just entered this world lie those that we’ve 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.
The Red Riding Trilogy (1974, 1980, 1983) (Hulu): What Steve Kloves is to J.K. Rowling, Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Tidelands, The Young Pope) is to David Peace. The English writer’s quartet of books based on a true story of police corruption set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders were adapted by Grisoni into a movie trilogy for the BBC and released here in the States by IFC. Each film was directed by a different director (Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, and Anand Tucker respectively) and features a revolving door of phenomenal British thespians. Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, Paddy Considine, Mark Addy, David Morrissey, Sean Harris, Eddie Marsan, and Peter Mullan all make an appearance (or more) as the years progress and the discovery of the corruption runs deeper.
Christine (Netflix): In 1974, Sarasota newscaster Christine Chubbuck shot herself in the head with a revolver while at work. Work for her at that exact moment involved broadcasting the morning news live. Her story, dramatized by Antonio Campos (Afterschool), was overlooked upon its release in 2016 due to attention being paid to Kate Plays Christine, a gimmicky mockumentary about an actress who drops out of a biopic about Chubbuck because of the emotional toll of the part. The detached, objective stance that Campos takes with his direction neither makes a martyr of Chubbuck nor condescends to her but casts a coldness over the events leading up to her death that the young woman must have felt was an inescapable companion. Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Gift) stars in the titular role.
Trial & Error (Hulu): If you’re sick of true crime docs, then perhaps you should look into Trial & Error, the NBC sitcom that parodies them. Created by Jeff Astrof (Grounded for Life, New Adventures of Old Christine) and Matthew Miller (Chuck), the first season of the show specifically parodies The Staircase, starring John Lithgow as a beloved, South Carolina professor charged with the murder of his wife and Nicholas D’Agosto as the young Northeastern lawyer hired to defend him. Season 2 looks like the focus will be shifting to a different case with Kristen Chenoweth brought on board but you can catch up on season 1 while you wait for the second season to premiere on July 19th.
Derren Brown: Miracle (Netflix): The Netflix description of Miracle would have you believe that Derren Brown is an illusionist but the British mentalist has no interest in tricks. Instead, he’s built his entire career on asserting and demonstrating that the human brain can be easily understood and manipulated through a variety of techniques such as cold reading, subliminal suggestion, and body language reading. The centerpiece performance of Miracle is a scarily accurate demonstration of faith healings that he’d seen countless times before. While he never reveals the exact mechanics of how he eliminates the physical pain and suffering of his participating audience members, the implications of his ability to emulate them are as eerie as they are liberating.
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: Michael Clayton, Tropic Thunder, Lethal Weapon 1 – 4, Midnight in Paris
Amazon Prime: Room, Anomalisa, Escape from New York, Zodiac
Hulu: A League of Their Own, A Simple Plan, Zodiac, Stories We Tell
HBO Now: Harry Potter Collection, Role Models, Kong: Skull Island, The Purge: Election Year, The Fast and the Furious/2 Fast 2 Furious, Fast & Furious/The Fate of the Furious