Crossing the Streams: May 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’ve slept with my air conditioning on twice in the last month (thrice if you count the time I turned it on just to drown out the noise from the bar downstairs) so it would seem that the weather has finally started to reflect the season that the calendar dictates it’s supposed to be. As I write this blog, the first thunderstorm of the season rages outside tormenting cats and dogs citywide while the clacking of my laptop keys adds an incongruous rhythm to the NHL Playoffs that I’m streaming through the NBCSN app. It could be argued that I should be watching something else, like perhaps one of these titles that are soon going to expire…
The Jungle Book (Netflix): I never really saw anything special in Jon Favreau as a director – Iron Man’s success is, in my opinion, mostly attributed to RDJ and the less said about Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens the better – but with an Oscar win for its visual effects and a 95% Fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, consensus seems to be that his live action The Jungle Book is an enjoyable yarn. So successful was Favreau’s attempt at updating classic Disney animated films for the live action age that it netted him a job updating two more: The Lion King and The Jungle Book 2. Don’t get me wrong – I still haven’t seen The Jungle Book and have no intention of getting around to it anytime soon but that just means that I won’t be heartbroken when the bear necessities (is that song in the movie?) expire from Netflix on May 30th.
Hesher (Hulu): Brandon Rohwer may insist otherwise as I still haven’t seen Premium Rush, much to his chagrin, but I’m a sucker for Joseph Gordon-Levitt – I’ve recommended Brick and The Lookout more times than I can count and one of my biggest regrets in this life is chickening out on approaching him during a party at Sundance. It’s this fondness for JGL, perhaps, that meant I was inclined to like Hesher before I knew anything about it. Once I learned more about it, however – specifically that it features a long-haired, cigarette-smoking, tattooed JGL as an almost punk rock Mary Poppins – I knew it was love. Co-written and directed by Spencer Susser, about whom I’m sure you know nothing (unless you’re one of the perhaps seven people who saw and/or enjoyed the editing of The Greatest Showman), Hesher is admittedly a bit of a mess of a film with a surprisingly stellar cast – Natalie Portman, Piper Laurie, Rainn Wilson, John Carroll Lynch – all of whom are playing characters who are, as Roger Ebert described, “all elbows and angles.” Weirdly touching, aggravating, and confusing, Hesher is worth checking out because of how weird it is. It expires on May 31st.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (HBO Now): If John Wick kickstarted the Keanu Reeves renaissance (Reevaissance?) then John Wick: Chapter 2 confirmed that it wasn’t a fluke. Though the sequel to the modest box office success and surprising critical darling lost co-director/stunt coordinator David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2), Chapter 2 added a new dog companion, the ever-reliable Lawrence Fishburne, and more layers to the world of the clientele that frequent the Continental Hotel. Most importantly, it also brought back everything we loved about the original: the aforementioned dog companion, Ian McShane, and lots and lots and lots of ass-kicking. More than doubling the worldwide gross of the original and ending on a deliciously tantalizing cliffhanger, Chapter 2 guarantees that we’ll see a sequel – the recently named John Wick 3: Parabellum – and even more asses being kicked (and stabbed and shot and broken and bludgeoned). We have to wait another year to see that one, but it’s best to remind yourself of the plight that John Wick will find himself in come 2019 and you best do it soon since Chapter 2 expires on May 31st.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
HBO Now: The Exorcist (5/31), Gran Torino (5/31), The Last of the Mohicans (5/31), Split (5/31), X-Men: Apocalypse (5/31)
Hulu: Chaplin (5/31), Jack Goes Boating (5/31), Kingpin (5/31), Manhattan (5/31)
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.
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City (Netflix): I’ve probably watched John Mulaney’s first two standup specials about a half a dozen times combined so, now that New In Town has expired, I’m absolutely thrilled that Kid Gorgeous can fill the gap of standup specials that I will likely watch more times than people deem sensible (also on that list: Bo Burnham: what. and Ali Wong: Baby Cobra). Kid Gorgeous was recorded during one of the recent sold out consecutive shows that Mulaney performed at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and features the stylish, articulate, and dynamic comedian covering everything from the consequences of being raised by a Catholic lawyer father, to a mustachioed Reagan-era detective trying to scare school-kids into safety, to his and his wife’s strange devotion to their French bulldog. According to Pajiba, Kid Gorgeous is also responsible for the greatest political joke of the Trump era. Meanwhile, there’s this guy with a goatee who seems to believe that Mulaney is actually masking his own existential crisis while simultaneously revealing the cultural emptiness of his American audience? Cool. You’ve been able to judge for yourself which one is right (hint: it’s the first one) since May 1st.
Picnic at Hanging Rock Miniseries (Amazon Prime): Back when I still had a podcast, David Bax was kind enough to introduce me to the films of Australian director Peter Weir. My favorite of David’s three recommendations was Weir’s 1975 adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock, an ethereal period film that is less concerned with what caused the mysterious disappearance of a teacher and a few students from a girls’ school picnic than it is with an underlying emotional and spiritual ennui that was exacerbated and examined by the disappearance. Thanks to Amazon Studios, Picnic at Hanging Rock is being remade as a 6-episode mini-series created by Beatrix Christian and starring Game of Thrones alum Natalie Dormer as the school’s headmistress, Mrs. Hester Appleyard. The series debuted in Australia earlier this month and while very little is known and has been said about it, the extended runtime should hopefully allow a lot more exploration of the emotional fallout that the disappearances catalyze (and hopefully there’s more to it than the Sophia Coppola-esque visual elements that the trailer plays up). Only way to find out is to tune into Amazon when the series premieres on May 25th.
Fahrenheit 451 (HBO Now): Coincidentally, I was wondering to myself what became of Ramin Bahrani just as I sat down the other day to catch up on Westworld. Having apparently picked up on my musings – or, more realistically, advertising their own product – HBO answered by playing the trailer for Fahrenheit 451, Bahrani’s feature film follow up to 2014’s 99 Homes. A writer/director interested in social realism (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop), Bahrani would at first seem like a strange choice to adapt a seminal science-fiction novel set in a dystopian future. Upon further reflection, however, it’s not a huge leap of logic to conclude that today’s very real political darkness will eventually culminate in the visual and social totalitarian extremes Ray Bradbury imagined. Reviews out of Cannes aren’t very promising for the adaptation, but with a cast that features proven actors like Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon and cinematography from genre veteran Kramer Morgenthau (Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World), Fahrenheit 451 might be viewing more necessary than ever. Question authority on May 19th.
Dunkirk (HBO Now): Between Inception and Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman offerings of the last decade have been ho-hum. Criticized for being both emotionally cold with his direction and gimmicky with his writing, Nolan was a filmmaker that some people seemed ready to move past until he put out Dunkirk, a film that grossed over a half a billion dollars worldwide and picked up three Oscar wins to go along with five other nominations, including an absolutely deserved nod for Best Picture. Perhaps losing his writing partner, Jonathan Nolan (occupied with HBO’s Westworld) somehow freed up something in the English filmmaker, but no matter what factor it was, it resulted in a film that was emotionally grounded in real historical stakes, made its non-linear gimmick work to great narrative effect, and wound up on my top 10 of the year. It is arguably Nolan’s best film and has inarguably been available since May 12th.
Faces Places (Netflix): Lost amongst the many Oscar-nominees with an eye towards social justice and overshadowed by eventual winner Icarus was an intimate documentary from revered French filmmaker Agnes Varda (Cleo from 5 to 7). Having been so turned off by fans of the French New Wave for so long, I was woefully oblivious to many of the films and filmmakers of the hugely influential cinematic movement. This blindspot included the director who continues to assert her relevance while the lives or careers of her male contemporaries have long since passed away (or, in the case of Jean-Luc Godard, mutated). If you’re like me, then Netflix is giving you the chance to familiarize yourself with the catalog of the legendary director just a little bit, having made the film available on May 5th.
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: Orphan Black Season 5 (5/12), Howards End (5/29), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (5/1), Frailty (5/1), Insomnia (5/1), Manhunter (5/1), Rocky – Rocky V (5/1), The Crow (5/1), The Elephant Man (5/1), The Hurt Locker (5/1), Lots of James Bond (Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, Octopussy, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Thunderball) (5/1), Last Flag Flying (5/4), Warrior (5/5),
HBO Now: In the Cut Director’s Cut (5/1), A Dangerous Son (5/7), Patti Cake$ (5/26)
Hulu: Drunk History Season 5A (5/5), 12 Monkeys Season 3 (5/12), A Nightmare on Elm Street – A Nightmare on Elm Street V (5/1), The Matrix – The Matrix Revolutions (5/1), Traffic (5/1), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (5/1), I, Tonya (5/31)
Netflix: Dear White People: Volume 2 (5/4), Bill Nye Saves the World Season 3 (5/11), The Break with Michelle Wolf (5/27), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4 (5/30), Amelie (5/1), The Bourne Ultimatum (5/1), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (5/1), Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (5/11), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (5/16), Coco (5/29)
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.
The Thin Blue Line (Netflix): Before Steven Avery (Making a Murderer), Adnan Syed (Serial), or Curtis Flowers (In the Dark), there was Randall Adams, a resident of Dallas who, in 1976, was arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer that Adams said he didn’t commit. In 1988, Errol Morris (who had already established himself as a documentarian deserving of attention and accolades with 1978’s Gates of Heaven) released The Thin Blue Line, a film that dissected the facts and procedure of the case so thoroughly that it ultimately resulted in Adams’s exoneration and freedom. Conveyed through Morris’s signature storytelling devices of historical re-dramatizations informed by direct to camera interviews, The Thin Blue Line is an important landmark in the history of cinema as a force of cultural shift. In the age of media playing a significant role in the re-examination and skepticism of authority figures, this film is arguably more relevant than it’s ever been.
Michael Clayton (Netflix): 2007 was a tough year if you were a filmmaker not named Coen, Anderson, or Fincher. History has been and will continue to be kind to No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Zodiac (rightfully so), but lost in the shuffle of one of the greatest years of cinema in modern memory is Michael Clayton, the film that won Tilda Swinton her Oscar and proved that Clooney could carry a film entirely on his own (Three Kings, Syriana, Goodnight and Good Luck, and the Ocean’s movies are great, but in none of them was Clooney the sole lead). The story of a fixer – or janitor, as he calls himself – who’s on the payroll for a corporate law firm after tanking in the restaurant business, Michael Clayton is one of the finest scripts of the last decade(ish), a taut thriller that seamlessly ties together its intimate story of a man looking to gain back his soul with its grandiose indictment of soulless corporate culture. On top of Swinton’s Oscar win, the film also received performance nods for Clooney and Tom Wilkinson as well as writing & directing nods for Gilroy, not to mention a futile nomination for Best Picture. (In addition, in a fun little bit of “Where Have I Seen that Actor Before?”, Merritt Wever, who plays Anna, the catalyst for Arthur’s (Wilkinson) come-to-Jesus-moment, would later go on to star in the Netflix original series Godless).
Paterson (Amazon Prime): Paterson, New Jersey isn’t the city it once used to be but despite its less than stellar reputation throughout the Garden State, it’s admirably hung on to its fading pride and past glory while its search for a new identity proceeds (read: gentrification). In between what was and what’s going to be, is now, which can be seen as either an existential purgatory for those who crave progress or deliberate poetry for those who choose to enjoy the moment. Paterson, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, takes the position of the latter, following the titular bus driver (Adam Driver) whose days consist of little more than driving a bus, overhearing conversation, and writing poems. Set against the backdrop of many crumbling landmarks in Paterson, NJ and referencing some of the city’s famous alums (Allen Ginsberg and Lou Costello arguably the most noteworthy), the film takes time to relish in what’s between the past and the future, resting in the moment even if nothing “important” is occurring.
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: Bridget Jones’s Diary (5/1), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (5/1), Field of Dreams (5/1), Goodfellas (5/1), The Hurt Locker (5/1), Ocean’s Eleven (5/1), Silent Hill (5/1), The Host 2013 (5/7), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (5/12)
Amazon Prime: Creed (5/18)