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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NBC’s classic comedy stars Tina Fey as the head writer of a sketch comedy show who tries to balance her professional and personal lives with varying degrees of success — which isn’t easy when dealing with temperamental stars, a motley crew of writers, and pressures from her new boss, played by Alec Baldwin. As surreal as it is satirical, 30 Rock is widely considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and has received numerous accolades for its writing and performances.
Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson star in this coming-of-age comedy about a high school student whose life gets turned upside down when her best friend starts dating her cooler, more popular older brother. The Edge of Seventeen was the directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig, and received numerous accolades for Steinfeld’s performance.
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.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling tour de force chronicles the lives of various individuals whose lives have been pushed to the breaking point in the San Fernando Valley. Featuring bravura performances from an incredible ensemble cast — which includes Tom Cruise (who received a “Best Supporting Actor” nomination), Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP), William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, and John C. Reilly — Magnolia is a stunning and wrenching story of brokenness, forgiveness, and redemption.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in August 2021.
Joe Cornish’s 2011 directorial debut is an exciting twist on the “alien invasion” genre: when aliens begin appearing in a London apartment complex, a group of teenage hooligans decide to hunt them down. But as the night wears on, they discover that they might be the ones being hunted instead. With a cast that mostly consists of relatively unknown actors (at the time), Attack the Block is a thrilling mix of horror, sci-fi, comedy, and social commentary. It’s also noteworthy as the acting debut of John Boyega, who would later star as Finn in the Star Wars sequels.
In this classic dystopian action film, violent motorcycle gangs ravage the Australian wilderness. The only thing standing against them is Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) and the highway patrol. But when his family’s brutally killed by one such gang, Rockatansky exchanges law and order for revenge. Written and directed by George Miller, who was inspired by both his work as an ER doctor and the silent movies of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, Mad Max became a worldwide phenomenon — and once held the Guinness World Record for the most profitable movie of all time.
When it came out in 1998, The Thin Red Line was a big deal. Not only did it have a star-studded cast, including George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Sean Penn, and John C. Reilly, but it was writer/director Terrence Malick’s first film in 20 years. Ostensibly a World War 2 epic, The Thin Red Line is ultimately a philosophical — and visually stunning — rumination on war, violence, and man’s inhumanity to man. The Thin Red Line received numerous accolades and awards, with critic Gene Siskel calling it “the greatest contemporary war film I’ve seen.”
A lot has changed since Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s last season. Police violence and brutality have become national issues, particularly following the murder of George Floyd last May. As such, a comedy about a bunch of unorthodox police officers doesn’t exactly fit the zeitgeist. But if any police comedy can pull things off, it would be Brooklyn Nine-Nine and its lovable bunch of misfits. The show’s eighth and final season underwent significant changes — four finished episodes were scrapped following the George Floyd protests — as the cast and crew wrestled with the best way to bring it to an end.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in August 2021.
Amazon Prime Video
Ridley Scott’s original Alien was as much a horror movie as it was a sci-fi flick. But with Aliens, director James Cameron decided to throw in lots of action, as well. Set nearly 60 years after the original film, Aliens finds Ellen Ripley returning to the moon where the xenomorphs were first encountered in order to investigate why the human colony there has gone silent. Joining her are a colorful bunch of Colonial Marines, and they’ll need all of the firepower they can muster to deal with what awaits them.
Based on Cameron Crowe’s own undercover research at a San Diego high school, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of the classic high school coming-of-age movies of all time. Perhaps best known for Sean Penn’s portrayal of the stoner Spicoli — and sure, a certain pool scene — Fast Times at Ridgemont High follows a group of teens trying to navigate the various pitfalls of high school life. The movie also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Nicolas Cage, and a young Forest Whitaker in one of his very first roles.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a group of commandos into the jungles of Central America on a rescue mission. Their mission, however, quickly gets scuttled; first, by betrayal, and second, by their discovery that someone, or something, is hunting them down, one by one. Directed by John McTiernan, who would go on to direct Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, Predator is a lean, mean vehicle for Schwarzenegger, who’s at his action star best here.
Back in 2002, Hideaki Anno began working on a series of movies based on his (in)famous Neon Genesis Evangelion anime. And now, almost two decades later, American audiences will be able to see the final — and long-delayed — Evangelion movie via Amazon. (The other three Evangelion movies will be available on Amazon, too. The original Evangelion series is currently streaming on Netflix.) With its blend of insane mecha action, bizarre religious imagery, psychological concepts, and tortured characters, Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most influential (and controversial) anime series of all time.
This pitch-black English comedy follows a rookie hitman and his mentor as they lay low in the city of Bruges after the rookie botches his first job. What follows are a series of escapades as the unlikely pair try to survive in Bruges, and maybe even find some redemption for the rookie. In Bruges stars Colin Farrell as the hapless rookie, Brendan Gleeson as his mentor, and in the movie’s most iconic performance, Ralph Fiennes plays their irritable, foul-mouthed boss.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime in August 2021.
In light of Loki’s first season, the MCU seems to be embracing the multiverse, which means now’s the perfect time for What If…?. The animated anthology — which takes its title from Marvel’s long-running comic series — explores alternate takes on some of the MCU’s most important events and characters. What if Peggy Carter had been injected with the Super Soldier Serum? What if T’Challa was Star-Lord? What if there were zombies? Virtually all of the MCU’s actors return to lend their voices to the series, including Chadwick Boseman, who sadly died last year.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in August 2021.
As an adaptation of the long-running Hellblazer comic, Constantine ticked off fans by casting Keanu Reeves as the cynical British sorcerer/occult expert/con-man John Constantine and transplanting him to California. But once you get past that (and the film’s muddled plot and theology), Constantine is still a fun Hollywood-level “B” movie. The plot: when Constantine agrees to help a detective (Rachel Weisz) solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, they’re drawn into the long-running conflict between Heaven and Hell. Cue the special effects, gross demons, and Reeves’ inimitable watchability.
Based on the ’60s-era TV show of the same name, The Fugitive follows a man (Harrison Ford) who is wrongly accused of killing his wife, and goes on the run to prove his innocence. The film was a critical and commercial success, thanks to strong performances by Ford and Tommy Lee Jones as the U.S. Marshal trying to bring him in, some impressive action sequences, and a suspenseful plot. Trivia: The Fugitive was the first American film screened in China in decades.
This action comedy seemed to have everything going for it: a top director (John McTiernan), a great writer (Shane Black), and the biggest movie star of the time (Arnold Schwarzenegger). But Last Action Hero’s satire of action movie clichés was a critical and commercial bomb, due in part to studio incompetence and due in part to the release of a little movie called Jurassic Park. Watching it now, it’s not that bad. The movie knows exactly what it’s trying to do, and on those terms, it can be an entertaining throwback.
I fully admire and respect Requiem for a Dream, but I’m not sure I ever want to watch Darren Aronofsky’s movie about a group of people struggling with various addictions ever again. It’s a brutal film, to be sure, as we watch the characters’ lives sink ever more deeply into the toilet. But it’s told with such verve and style, from the masterful editing to the powerful Clint Mansell/Kronos Quartet soundtrack, that it’s a sheer juggernaut.
A box office failure during its theatrical run back in 1994, The Shawshank Redemption subsequently enjoyed massive success in both the home video market and on cable TV. Written and directed by Frank Darabont, the film is arguably the best Stephen King adaptation — it’s based on his Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption novella — and stars Tim Robbins as an unjustly imprisoned man who uses his wits and skills to survive and even thrive in a brutal prison.
Scientists figure out a way to clone extinct dinosaurs, and the first thing they do? Why, create an amusement park on a remote island, of course. What can go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out, and it’s up to some paleontologists and Jeff Goldblum’s chaos mathematician to find a way to survive when life, uh, finds a way. Jurassic Park is a summer blockbuster in the best way possible.
In a hopeless world ravaged by global warming, nostalgia has become the ultimate drug. Hugh Jackman is an investigator who helps clients recall lost memories in which to lose themselves. When he falls for his latest client (Rebecca Ferguson), and she subsequently disappears, he becomes fixated on her past in order to find her whereabouts — and in the process, uncovers a dangerous conspiracy. Reminiscence also stars Thandiwe Newton and Daniel Wu, and was written and directed by Lisa Joy, one of the creators of HBO’s Westworld.
Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in August 2021.