June 2020’s Best Streaming Titles: Inside Man, Dark, The X-Files, True Romance, Knives Out
As Netflix et al. add more content, it’s difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. So at the start of every month, I publish a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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Inside Man (June 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.
Starship Troopers (June 1)
While it’s entirely possible to watch Starship Troopers as a parody of military fascism, you can also just enjoy it for the over-the-top violence as a bunch of clean-cut, attractive teenagers join the military in order to fight an alien insect race. Despite receiving quite the critical drubbing at the box office, it has since inspired four sequels and two TV series.
Lady Bird (June 3)
This “coming of age” film starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Timothée Chalamet was one of 2017’s most acclaimed movies. Lady Bird was nominated for five Oscars, including “Best Picture” and “Best Actress” and won two Golden Globe Awards.
Spelling the Dream (June 3)
This original Netflix documentary follows four Indian-American students as they prepare for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The film also features interviews with various Indian-American personalities (e.g., CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria) to discuss what the spelling bee means to the Indian-American community.
Da 5 Bloods (June 12)
This Spike Lee-directed Netflix original follows four African American veterans who return to Vietnam to find the remains of their squad leader and the treasure that they buried so many years ago. Of course, this being a Spike Lee film, there will be deeper themes at play involving race and class as the veterans wrestle with the war’s legacy. Da 5 Bloods stars Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Chadwick Boseman, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jean Reno.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (June 26)
If you’ve ever watched any footage from the Eurovision Song Contest, a musical competition that is one of the most popular international events, then you know it’s ripe for parody. Enter The Story of Fire Saga starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as a pair of Icelandic musicians who want to represent their country in the competition.
Dark Season 3 (June 27)
I’ve been looking forward to the third and final season of Netflix’s Dark from the moment the credits started rolling on the season two finale. To call the German series’ plot “labyrinthian” is an understatement: it follows several families over multiple decades, and involves mysterious kidnappings and disappearances, time travel, secret societies, and the end of the world. I can’t wait to see how the series’ creators wrap up all of its numerous mysteries and threads.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Netflix in June 2020.
Constantine (June 1)
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.
Equilibrium (June 1)
In Equilibrium, a totalitarian government has outlawed emotions in order to prevent humanity from succumbing to its worst impulses. It’s a corny premise, but Christian Bale brings gravitas to his “tortured lawman” role and the movie’s efficient plot, slick style, and modest scale makes it a fun dystopic ride. Special credit goes to the movie’s martial arts-influenced approach to gun fights, aka “gun kata,” which adds an interesting wrinkle to the many action sequences.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (June 1)
It’s no Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs, but I have a certain fondness for Mel Brooks’ send-up of everyone’s favorite forest outlaw. Casting Cary Elwes as Robin Hood was a stroke of genius (and not just because he can speak with an English accent), and the rest of the cast — which includes Richard Lewis, Dave Chappelle, Dom DeLuise, and Patrick Stewart(!) — is game for the non-stop parade of sight gags and juvenile humor.
The X‑Files (June 1)
The headlines are swarming with conspiracy theories these days thanks to the pandemic, so it seems only fitting to revisit the show that made conspiracy theories part of the popular zeitgeist. Essentially an extended episode, The X-Files movie finds FBI agents Mulder and Scully once again investigating extraterrestrial threats and clashing with a global cabal.
True Romance (Director’s Cut) (June 1)
Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, True Romance is a perfect example of style over substance. Filled with Tarantino’s trademark pop culture-saturated dialog (e.g., kung fu movies, Elvis, blaxploitation) and bravura performances from the likes of Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and Gary Oldman, True Romance also happens to features one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.
Undertow (June 1)
Following the success of George Washington and All the Real Girls, writer/director David Gordon Green made this fable-like story about two brothers on the run from their murderous uncle. The film takes on a dreamlike feel that’s part Flannery O’Connor, part Night of the Hunter as the brothers make their way through the deep South, encountering strange and unique characters while trying to stay one step ahead of their uncle. (Read my review from the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.)
Out of Sight (June 19)
George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez star in this sleek, sexy caper film directed with panache by Steven Soderbergh. Based on the Elmore Leonard novel, a bank robber (Clooney) and U.S. Marshal (Lopez) are forced to ride together in a car trunk following his escape from jail, and suffice to say, sparks begin to fly. Their burgeoning relationship is tested, however, when Clooney’s character is drawn to a new score.
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (June 30)
Who knew that a movie franchise inspired by a spy TV series from the ’60s and ’70s would become our best modern action movie franchise? Led by Tom Cruise, the Mission: Impossible films deliver time and again with elaborate and mind-blowing action set pieces. Case in point: Ghost Protocol features Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) in pursuit of terrorists trying to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Hulu in June 2020.
Babylon 5, Seasons 1 – 5 (June 1)
Some aspects of J. Michael Straczynski’s space opera TV series, like the visual effects, haven’t aged very well since it originally aired in the mid-to-late ’90s. But Babylon 5’s ambitious storyline involving a space station that becomes the locus of a war between vast galactic forces is about as epic and mythic as TV sci-fi gets.
The Natural (June 1)
Considered one of the greatest sports movies of all time, The Natural follows a baseball player (Robert Redford) who pursues his dreams of playing in the big leagues with the help of his quasi-magical bat. Yeah, it’s a bit corny and melodramatic, but there’s also an earnestness and fable-like quality to the film that proves endearing.
Knives Out (June 12)
Rian Johnson’s ode to classic murder mysteries and whodunits was some of the most fun I had in the movie theater (remember those?) in 2019. Boasting a clever script packed with twists and turns, and a star-studded cast (e.g., Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Adams) that clearly appeared to be having the time of their lives on set, Knives Out is a pure joy to watch.
Where the Wild Things Are (June 30)
Spike Jonze’s fantastical adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s best-selling children’s book follows the adventures of Max, a young boy who runs away and ends up on an island of monsters after an argument with his mom. Filled with Jonze’s imaginative visuals and remarkable special effects, Where the Wild Things Are truly looks like nothing else. However, the movie was a box office failure when it was originally released in 2009.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Amazon in June 2020.
Tarzan (June 26)
There are slim pickings on Disney+ this month, so I’m going with the studio’s adaptation of the “Lord of the Jungle.” Abandoned as a baby and raised by gorillas, young Tarzan considers himself more animal than human. Until, that is, he encounters actual humans and falls in love with one of them. Interesting note: Tarzan’s animations were based on the movements of skating legend Tony Hawk. Also, Disney won a special Academy Award for their “Deep Canvas” technology which allowed the film’s animators to create 3D backgrounds that looked like traditional paintings.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Disney+ in June 2020.