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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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.
South Korea’s first space blockbuster follows the intrepid crew of The Victory as they scour space for trash and wreckage that they can sell for quick money. But when they discover a human-looking robot during one of their hauls, their get-quick-rich scheme falls apart when the robot turns out to be much more than they were expecting. While I get something of an Expanse vibe from the trailer, what with the gritty depiction of life in space, Space Sweepers also looks to be far more action-packed and over-the-top.
In this adaptation of Baku Yumemakura’s Onmyōji, a group of powerful magic users must work together to stop a powerful demon that is about to reawaken while also dealing with political conspiracies. This won’t be the first Chinese fantasy/period piece on Netflix — see also Ashes of Love, Handsome Siblings, Ice Fantasy, The Untamed — but The Yin Yang Master: Dream of Eternity looks impressive with some Doctor Strange-esque visuals and fantastical effects.
When David and Nadja set out on a romantic hiking trip through the Swedish wilderness, the last thing they expected was to be hunted down by an unknown, unseen shooter. Red Dot holds the distinction of being Netflix’s first Swedish feature film, and based on the trailer alone, it looks like it’ll be a pretty intense thriller. (That last shot of the couple out on the ice illuminated by a flare is particularly haunting.)
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in February 2021.
When aliens arrive in Johannesburg, they’re forced to live in a rundown area called District 9 where they’re subjected to horrific living conditions. But when a mid-level bureaucrat gets mixed up in the unrest, he finds himself seeing the aliens in a new way. With its exploration of heavy themes like racism and apartheid, as well as its stunning visuals and action, District 9 has been called one of the best sci-fi movies of the 2000s.
Martin Blank (John Cusack) just wants to attend his high school reunion. But that’s easier said than done given that his old girlfriend (Minnie Driver) will be there. That, and he’s a highly skilled assassin with some dangerous people breathing down his neck. Grosse Pointe Blank is one of Cusack’s finest movies, thanks to Cusack’s inimitable charisma, a healthy dose of dark humor, and an excellent supporting cast that includes Alan Arkin, Joan Cusack, Jeremy Piven, and Dan Aykroyd as a rival assassin.
It’s the greatest alien invasion movie based on a series of trading cards ever made, and it boasts a heckuva cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short, Natalie Portman, and Tom Jones, to name a few. True story: When I was in college, I missed school for about a week due to illness. During that time, all I could do was lie on the couch, and the only thing I remember watching was Mars Attacks!, so my memories of the movie might be a bit addled.
James T. Kirk and the Enterprise crew find themselves facing an enemy from their past in this, arguably the best Star Trek movie of all time. But even as Kirk must combat the evil, charismatic Khan (played to perfection by Ricardo Montalbán), he finds himself reuniting with an old flame and the son he didn’t know he had — both of whom are working on a top secret device of unimaginable power. The Wrath of Khan helped reignite interest in the Star Trek franchise and set up two more excellent movies, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home.
There was absolutely no reason to make a movie based on the popular video game character. No reason at all. And yet, the movie — which was significantly retooled after negative reactions to the character’s look in the first trailer — isn’t actually that bad, due in large part to Jim Carrey’s delightfully over-the-top performance as the evil Dr. Robotnik. There are certainly far worse things to watch with your kids on a slow day.
Written and directed by Chloé Zhao — who’s currently wrapping up work on Marvel’s Eternals — Nomadland follows a recently unemployed woman (Frances McDormand) who decides to buy a van and travel around western America looking for work. The drama, which also stars David Strathairn, has received widespread critical acclaim, including top awards at the Toronto and Venice film festivals. It’s currently considered a frontrunner for “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” and “Best Actress” in this year’s Oscars.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Hulu in February 2021.
In this coming-of-age classic by Richard Linklater, a group of high school students celebrate the last day of school by hazing the incoming freshmen, smoking pot, and hanging out. The film, with its meandering storyline and star-studded cast (e.g., Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Renée Zellweger), has become a cult classic since its 1993 release. Alright, alright, alright indeed…
A western movie starring Jackie Chan could’ve gone wrong in all kinds of ways. But thanks to his chemistry with co-star Owen Wilson, this buddy action comedy is quite the enjoyable ride, as Chan plays a Chinese imperial guard who travels to the United States to help retrieve a princess after she’s kidnapped by a traitor. Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of culture clash comedy in Shanghai Noon, but when mixed with Chan’s inimitable stunt work and choreography, it makes for a fun little romp.
Christopher Nolan may be best known for the “Dark Knight” trilogy — which is arguably the definitive film version of Batman — but in 2006, he directed this entertaining little suspense thriller about the escalating rivalry between two magicians in the early 20th century. As is Nolan’s wont, The Prestige is full of clever little visuals, twists, and turns. Oh, and it features a David Bowie cameo as the legendary inventor Nikola Tesla.
A man and woman (Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek) believe they are living between two realities — one a paradise, the other not so much — but which reality is the real one? That question becomes harder to answer when the realities begin to intermingle. Directed by Mike Cahill (Another Earth, I Origins), Bliss looks like quite the mind trip.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon in February 2021. As usual, there’s some overlap between Hulu and Amazon’s offerings.
Our kids are big Kate DiCamillo fans, so safe to say that Flora & Ulysses, which follows the adventures of a comic book-obsessed young girl and her superpowered squirrel companion, will be required viewing in our household. Based on DiCamillo’s Newbery Award-winning book, Flora & Ulysses stars Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Danny Pudi, and Janeane Garofolo.
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, and the rest of the gang finally arrive on Disney+. Debuting back in 1976, The Muppet Show features your favorite Muppets performing a variety of songs and comedy sketches with the help of numerous special guests, including Alice Cooper, Dom DeLuise, Mark Hamill, Elton John, Steve Martin, and Liza Minnelli (to name a few). Lasting for five seasons, the show was a massive success, earning and winning multiple Emmy nominations.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in February 2021.
While Batman: The Animated Series is widely understood as the best Batman series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold — which finds the Caped Crusader teaming up with various allies on his crime-fighting adventures — is plenty enjoyable in its own right. The series, which lasted three seasons, is characterized by an extremely dry sense of humor (which is aided by Diedrich Bader’s excellent voice-acting as Batman) as well as a willingness to feature more obscure and outlandish characters and storylines.
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and the rest of the Justice League are the focus of this ambitious and acclaimed animated series. One of the things I enjoyed most about Justice League Unlimited was that, while the big heroes obviously got most of the screentime, the series also shined a light on a lot of lesser known DC heroes, including Deadman, Elongated Man, Huntress, Question, Shining Knight, and Vigilante.
The Road Warrior is one of the prototypical post-apocalyptic films, featuring nomads trying to eke out a living in the blasted wastelands of the Australian outback. Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is a lonely survivor who falls in with a group of settlers fighting over precious resources with a vicious gang, with the result being some of the greatest and most intense action scenes of all time.
Clint Eastwood’s award-winning Unforgiven — among other things, it earned Oscars for “Best Picture” and “Best Director” in 1993 — works as both a deconstruction of the Western epics that helped make Eastwood’s career as well as an excellent Western in its own right. Eastwood plays a reformed bandit and murderer who returns to his violent ways in order to save his family, but at what cost to his soul?
Aquaman contains a number of jaw-dropping effects and visuals, be it an amazingly advanced underwater civilization or the ocean’s deepest, darkest regions. However, the movie’s greatest special effect is Jason Momoa’s own charisma. Momoa plays Arthur Curry, a half-human, half-Atlantean who is the proper heir to the throne of Atlantis, but struggles with his heritage even as he must protect the surface world from Atlanteans seeking to destroy it.
One of HBO Max’s biggest selling points is that they currently own the streaming rights to all of Studio Ghibli’s movies. To an already impressive library comes Earwig and the Witch, Studio Ghibli’s first 3DCG animated movie. Adapted from Diana Wynne Jones’ novel and directed by Gorō Miyazaki, the movie is about a young orphan girl who discovers that she’s actually a witch’s daughter.
In this animated series from the producers of RWBY, a group of elite soldiers must use advanced mecha to defeat an authoritarian force — but at what cost?. The series has an impressive voice cast, including Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning, Maisie Williams, and David Tennant, and the visuals and animation look pretty topnotch for a 3DCG series.
Over the years, news of a Blade Runner sequel has always been met with trepidation and skepticism. However, Blade Runner 2049 was about as perfect a sequel as fans could’ve hoped for. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 may not reach the original’s mythic-ness, but it’s certainly of a piece thanks to its contemplative pacing, gorgeous effects and world-building, and a storyline that builds on the original’s themes.
Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in February 2021.