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
There was a period of time when my wife and I watched Frasier almost religiously, thanks to Kelsey Grammer’s performance as a therapist who returns to his hometown of Seattle, launches a radio talk show, and attempts to make sense of his life with the help of a motley crew of friends and family. Witty, erudite, and just plain laugh out loud hilarious at times — especially whenever his brother Niles was onscreen — Frasier won nearly forty Primetime Emmy Awards during its eleven-season run, and is lauded as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.
Everyone knows that Elvis Presley died in 1977. But Bubba Ho-Tep presupposes that he’s actually been living in a Texas nursing home all these years, along with a Black man who believes he’s John F. Kennedy. And it’s up to the two of them to stop an ancient Egyptian mummy from devouring the souls of their neighbors. Bruce Campbell gives a performance for the ages as the regret-filled King of Rock and Roll who gets one final shot at being a hero. Although its premise is ridiculous on paper, Bubba Ho-Tep is a pitch-perfect blend of dark humor, horror, and pathos.
A slew of James Bond films are arriving on Amazon Video in October, but I have a special fondness for 1995’s Goldeneye, which was Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as 007. Brosnan’s 007 is the perfect blend of charm, élan, menace, and edge, all of which are put to good use as Bond tries to stop a deadly Russian satellite from falling into the wrong hands. Goldeneye has everything you could want in a Bond film: gadgets, femme fatales, thrilling action sequences (like the tank chase through downtown St. Petersburg), and a couple of twists and betrayals. (The fact that Goldeneye also inspired one of the greatest video games of all time doesn’t hurt, either.)
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.
Adam Sandler stars in this 1998 romantic comedy about a wedding singer whose fiancée leaves him at the altar. Spiraling into depression, the only bright spot is his friendship with a young waitress (played by Drew Barrymore) who’s also soon to be married. Needless to say, sparks — and hilarity — soon start flying. Set in 1985, the film revels in ridiculous ’80s nostalgia, from Sandler’s hair to the musical references (Culture Club, Thompson Twins, Billy Idol).
UHF very nearly ruined “Weird Al” Yankovic’s career when it was released in 1989. But its story about a loveable loser who suddenly finds himself the owner of a UHF television station has since become a cult classic thanks to its outlandish premise, movie parodies, and of course, Yankovic himself. The film also stars Fran Drescher and Michael Richards in a couple of “before they were big” performances.
Robin and the rest of the Teen Titans are sick and tired of being seen as jokes by Superman, Batman, and the rest of the superheroes. Unfortunately, no one takes them serious because they don’t have a big blockbuster movie of their own. Poking fun at the glut of superhero movies, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies delivers plenty of laughs, including some surprisingly twisted moments as they confront some of the DC universe’s darkest moments, like the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It also features a killer soundtrack. (I dare you to keep “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” from getting stuck in your head.)
We really liked the first season of Amazon’s Upload, which put a dystopic sci-fi spin on The Good Place’s after-life comedy. The second season, however, felt truncated and rushed thanks to its seven-episode length. Season three will have a lot to cover, but will also have eight episodes, so maybe its various plot threads (e.g., AI, political conspiracies, voter rights) will be handled a bit more completely and thoroughly.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in October 2023.
The MCU’s crown prince of mischief returns for another season of time-traveling shenanigans, as Loki Laufeyson continues to explore the reach of the TVA throughout the multiverse — which has suddenly become even more unruly and chaotic following the events of season one. And even better, Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once) joins the cast alongside Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Sophia Di Martino. I enjoyed Loki’s first season due in large part to its impeccable aesthetic and design, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it in season two.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in October 2023.
30 years have passed since the events of Army of Darkness, and Ash Williams has squandered every single one of them. But when the Deadites return to unleash hell on Earth, Ash must step up, and with the help of his few remaining friends, become the chainsaw-wielding hero that the world needs. Bruce Campbell reclaims his iconic role from the Evil Dead movies, with guest appearances from Lucy Lawless, Ted Raimi, and Lee Majors.
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore star in this romantic comedy about a man who falls for a woman with amnesia, and strives to win her heart despite her memory issues. 50 First Dates also stars Rob Schneider, Dan Aykroyd, Maya Rudolph, and Sean Astin in a hilarious turn as a steroid-abusing bodybuilder. The film was a commercial success in 2004 and spawned remakes in India, Japan, Iran, and Mexico.
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…
I don’t know where, exactly, Godzilla 2000 ranks in the Godzilla pantheon. But I remember thoroughly enjoying its tale of Godzilla taking on an ancient UFO and a horrific alien monster (read my review). Godzilla 2000 was originally intended as a reboot of the franchise, and the first film of the “Millennium” era of Godzilla films, which also included Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
Before they blew away the box office with Top Gun: Maverick, Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise teamed up for this 2013 sci-fi film about the last two humans on Earth who are tasked with monitoring the planet following an alien invasion. But a shocking discovery threatens to undo everything they thought they knew. The film received mixed reviews at the time, but its visual effects were widely praised, and helped lay the foundation for series like The Mandalorian.
In this delightful parody/homage to zombie movies, Simon Pegg plays a lovable loser who’s stuck in a dead-end job and having problems with his girlfriend. But when the zombie apocalypse begins, could this be what he needs to stand up and become a hero? Shaun of the Dead is a perfect blend of humor and horror, but as I wrote in my 2004 review, it has some surprisingly affecting character moments and even a wee bit of social commentary mixed in with the gore.
If you’re looking for a lean and mean historical action thriller, then it doesn’t get much better than Neil Marshall’s film about a group of Roman soldiers trying to survive in the wilds of northern Britain. The film, which stars Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, Dominic West, and Riz Ahmed, was inspired by the legends of Rome’s Ninth Legion, which disappeared mysteriously. Although it didn’t enjoy much success upon its release in 2010, Centurion is worth a second look.
After watching this charming and elegant documentary, you’ll never look at your job the same way again. You’ll certainly never look at sushi the same way again. Jiro Ono is the world’s most celebrated sushi chef, and his constant drive to hone and perfect his craft is inspiring, just as his joy in producing sushi is infectious. And yet, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the personal cost of such devotion. Read my review over at Christ and Pop Culture.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in October 2023.
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.
William Friedkin’s The French Connection is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, following Gene Hackman’s Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle as he tries to track down a notorious heroin smuggler; it won numerous Oscars that year, including “Best Picture” and “Best Director.” The French Connection is most famous for its thrilling car chase sequence, which Friedkin (in)famously shot without getting the proper permits from New York City. The stunts were so dangerous, in fact, that Friedkin filmed some sequences himself because the other camera operators had families.
Hackers is completely unrealistic in its depiction of computers and technology. And yet, it’s one of the best computer movies ever made because of its over-the-top sense of style and joyful, anarchistic idealism. (I highly recommend reading this oral history of the film’s genesis and production.) Yeah, I can nitpick and mock its depiction of hacking and how computer networks and interfaces work. But secretly, I totally wish all of that stuff really did work (and look) like it does in Hackers.
Based on Andre Dubus III’s novel of the same name, House of Sand and Fog follows the conflict between a young woman trying to hold onto her house and the Iranian family who buys it. A wrenching morality tale, the film’s characters slowly find their lives spiraling out of control as they engage in increasingly desperate behavior. The film, which stars Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, was Vadim Perelman’s directorial debut, and received numerous award nominations, including several Oscars.
If you’re of a certain age, then just the mention of the Swamps of Sadness is bound to give you some trauma. But that’s exactly why The NeverEnding Story remains a classic after all this time, blending darkness with magic and whimsy. And it doesn’t hurt to have a flying luck dragon on your side, either.
2018’s Upgrade is an intense thriller about a man given a second lease on life through cybernetics after a shocking attack leaves his wife dead and himself a quadriplegic. But when he begins to use his enhancements to avenge his wife’s death, he has to face the frightening possibility that his enhancements are using him. Filled with blistering action and inventive filmmaking that belies its meager budget, Upgrade is one of the best cyberpunk films of the last few years.
Here’s everything arriving on Max in October 2023.
Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic sci-fi novel — or at least, his adaptation of the novel’s first half — is a triumph on nearly every level. Filled with awe-inspiring visuals and solid performances from its impressive cast, Dune chronicles the efforts of the Atreides family as they settle on the desert planet of Arrakis, and must survive not only the planet’s brutal climate but also treacherous political conspiracies. One of the best sci-fi films in recent memory, Dune was also one of 2021’s biggest commercial and critical successes. Dune’s second part was originally scheduled for release this November, but was pushed back to March 15, 2024 due to the Hollywood strikes.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut was one of 2017’s most acclaimed film for its acting, script (it won the “Best Original Screenplay” Oscar), and social critique. When a Black photographer meets his white girlfriend’s rich family, he’s initially put off by some of their comments. But the visit only gets stranger and more unnverving until he discovers the shocking truth. Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya, Bradley Whitford, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield, and Catherine Keener.
Inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s classic novels about the famous gentleman thief, Netflix’s Lupin has been a huge success thanks to its heist-filled revenge plot and Omar Sy’s performance as Assane Diop. Despite finally exposing the man who framed his father, Diop is still on the run. But when shadowy figures emerge from his past, he must use all of his wits and skills to protect his family while staying one step ahead of the law.
Based on Naoki Urasawa’s acclaimed manga, which was itself inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s influential Astro Boy, Pluto follows a robot detective tasked with solving a series of mysterious and seemingly impossible crimes. But his investigation could shake society to its very foundations. The series is directed by Toshio Kawaguchi, who has worked on several Studio Ghibli titles including My Neighbor Totoro and Porco Rosso, and consists of eight 60-minute episodes. Pluto was previously adapted into a stage play that premiered in 2015.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in October 2023.