April 2023’s Best Streaming Titles: The Big Lebowski, Ong Bak, Coraline, Doctor Who, Psycho
As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al. add more content, it can be difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. Every month, I compile a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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Amazon Prime Video
The Big Lebowski (Apr 1)
Make yourself a White Russian and get ready to spend some time with the Dude… I’ll admit, the first time I watched The Big Lebowski, I kind of hated it. It seemed so directionless and pointless. But then I realized that it’s more about the characters and their interactions then any standard plot (though one does exist). The movie boasts a number of classic scenes, from the discussion about the importance of rugs to a discussion about nihilism. Oh, and the trippiest bowling dream sequence in cinema history.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Apr 1)
Ang Lee’s martial arts epic was a huge success when it appeared in 2000, winning numerous awards (including four Oscars) and becoming the most successful foreign film in American box office history. With its dramatic storyline, sweeping cinematography, evocative score, and graceful combat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon proved that martial arts films could be more than cheesy action comedies, and ushered in a wave of artsy martial arts films including Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and The Promise.
Fearless (Apr 1)
When Fearless was released, it was touted as Jet Li’s final wushu (i.e., traditional martial arts) film. A loose re-telling of the life of Huo Yuanjia, a real-life martial arts master who helped defend China’s national honor in the early 20th century, Fearless easily ranks as one of Li’s best films (read my review). While it boasts some impressive combat sequences (choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping), the film’s ultimate message of piece and forgiveness makes it more than just another martial arts epic.
Ong Bak (Apr 1)
Ong Bak thrilled and delighted martial arts fans when it was released back in 2003. Starring Tony Jaa as a young man from the country who travels to the big city of Bangkok in search of his village’s sacred Buddha statue, Ong Bak is filled with mind-blowing action scenes. Jaa dispatches the bad guys with a flurry of feet, fists, knees, and elbows — sometimes even while on fire — and his acrobatic stunts recall classic Jackie Chan (read my review).
Citadel, Season One (Apr 28)
Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in this Amazon Prime original about a pair of spies whose memories were wiped after a mission went horribly wrong. But when they’re contacted by an old comrade, their memories start to return and they find themselves caught between two rival spy agencies with the fate of the world in the balance. Citadel is an ambitious undertaking for Amazon, with multiple spin-off titles planned for different regions of the world, and all of them tying back together to form one mega-franchise.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in April 2023.
Ghosted (Apr 21)
When Cole (Chris Evans) meets Sadie (Ana de Armas), he’s convinced he’s met the love of his life. Until she ghosts him, that is. Determined to track her down, Cole travels to England in search of Sadie, only to learn the shocking truth: she’s a deadly secret agent, and now he’s caught up in a world of danger. Honestly, this looks a little bit like True Lies to me, with Evans in the Jamie Lee Curtis role. Ghosted was written by the folks behind Deadpool, which could be a really good thing or a really bad thing, and the cast also stars Adrien Brody, Burn Gorman, Tim Blake Nelson, and Amy Sedaris.
Coraline (Apr 1)
Neil Gaiman’s darkly fantastical storytelling and Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation are a match made in movie heaven. Coraline’s titular heroine dreams of a nicer, more magical home — which is exactly what she gets when she discovers a portal to another world. Of course, given that this is Neil Gaiman we’re talking about, things soon get dark and weird, and Selick’s clever visuals are a perfect tool for conveying that.
The Host (Apr 1)
Bong Joon-ho’s The Host works on multiple levels (read my review). As a monster movie, it’s filled with thrills as a horrific creature stalks and threatens the people living alongside South Korea’s Han River. But it also works as a political satire, making pointed critiques of South Korean politics and society as well as the American military. And to top it all off, it’s hilarious… if you like your humor dark and absurd. Upon its release in 2006, The Host became a box office sensation in South Korea and received widespread acclaim around the world, even from North Korea (due to its criticism of the United States).
Doctor Who: Power of the Doctor (Apr 23)
Jodie Whittaker wraps up her tenure as The Doctor, a space and time-traveling alien who seeks to combat injustice throughout the universe with the help of her stalwart companions. This time around, she’s pulled into a mystery involving missing seismologists, Grigori Rasputin, and a dastardly plot to destroy humanity once and for all. And of course, there are Daleks. There are always Daleks.
Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in April 2023.
The Forgotten (Apr 1)
I was a bit surprised to see how many critics disliked The Forgotten because I remember it being a fairly entertaining film. Yes, the film’s storyline — a woman (played by Julianne Moore) fights to maintain her sanity as her entire life begins to unravel — gets a bit preposterous and hard to swallow, but it has some solid “What the…” moments, and Moore gives a good central performance.
Once (Apr 1)
Starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Once is a charming romantic film about two lonely souls who find each other on the streets of Ireland and begin playing music together (read my review). Naturally, an attraction begins to develop between them, but the film doesn’t always follow the expected route. At the same time, it’s a joyful exploration of making and creating art within a vibrant community. The film’s hit single, “Falling Slowly,” won an Oscar in 2008 for “Best Original Song.”
Jesus Camp (Apr 8)
Kids on Fire School of Ministry is a summer camp where Christian kids go to learn how to better proselytize others into their faith. With numerous interviews and footage, Jesus Camp explores the controversy surrounding the camp’s teachings in a surprisingly even-handed manner (read my review). I saw this documentary with some friends many years ago, and it led to a really interesting discussion concerning our own upbringing in the evangelical Christian church, and the ways in which our adult faith has evolved and now differs from the faith of our childhood.
New Girl (Apr 17)
Zooey Deschanel stars as Jessica Day, a quirky young woman who moves into an apartment with three guys, and queue the hijinks. As the series that put the word “adorkable” in the dictionary, New Girl can come off as precocious, slight, and twee, thanks to Deschanel’s performance. But it’s also frequently hilarious, from Jessica’s attempts at romance to Schmidt’s over-sexualized vanity to Nick’s slacker bumbling.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in April 2023.
The Bourne Ultimatum (Apr 1)
The first three Bourne films represent some of the best action thrillers of the ’00s, as former government agent Jason Bourne attempts to recover his memory and identity while battling the covert government program that made him in the first place. The Bourne Ultimatum brings that trilogy to a thrilling conclusion, thanks to Matt Damon’s intense portrayal, some smart directing and writing, and truly thrilling action sequences.
Inception (Apr 1)
Christopher Nolan’s Inception is about as trippy as big budget Hollywood spectacles get, featuring a group of dream hackers who hire a new recruit to infiltrate the subconscious of an executive. Filled with mind-blowing visuals and some incredibly clever action set pieces — and a hotly debated ending — Inception is proof that Hollywood action movies can be plenty cerebral.
Inside Man (Apr 1)
In this wonderfully executed heist movie by Spike Lee, an unorthodox hostage negotiator (Denzel Washington) finds himself squaring off against an equally unorthodox thief (Clive Owen) in a bank robbery where nothing is what it seems. The film’s star-studded cast also includes Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Psycho (Apr 1)
One of the greatest suspense films of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is iconic, no doubt about it. After a young woman on the run disappears, her sister and a private investigator pick up the trail, which leads them to a remote motel in the middle of nowhere — and the creepy house overlooking it. From the famous shower scene to the final twists, Psycho is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films of all time.
Smokey and the Bandit (Apr 1)
Burt Reynolds lays on the charm as the titular bandit who’s hired to help bootleg 400 cases of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta. But his beer run is complicated when he meets a young woman (Sally Field) on the run from her own wedding, which leads to him being pursued by the tenacious Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). Filled with fancy driving, Gleason’s inventive swearing, and Reynolds’ irrepressible swagger, Smokey and the Bandit is an action comedy classic.
Zombieland (Apr 1)
Along with Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland is proof that the best zombie movies are those that blend their undead gore with comedy. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as a ragtag group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse — oh, and Bill Murray in an inspired cameo — Zombieland is proof that you can find plenty to laugh about while watching the end of civilization.
Beef, Season 1 (Apr 6)
Steven Yeun and Ali Wong star in this Netflix original series about two strangers who grow increasingly unhinged and desperate following a road rage incident. Beef had its premier at this year’s SXSW festival, where it quickly garnered acclaim for Yeun and Wong’s performances and its dark, twisted storyline and sense of humor.
AKA (Apr 28)
A former special ops agent is tasked with infiltrating and taking down a vicious criminal gang. But his mission gets complicated when he bonds with boss’ son. And it gets even more complicated when the son is kidnapped. AKA stars Alban Lenoir and is directed Morgan S. Dalibert, both of whom have worked on the Lost Bullet films — and that’s enough to pique my curiosity. However, AKA looks to be an even darker and more intense film, filled with twists, turns, and bone-crunching action.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in April 2023.