As we mentioned yesterday, August is traditionally a pretty dead month for multiplex movie-going, though there’s no shortage of worthwhile indie options. But if you aren’t in one of those “limited release” markets, or if you just don’t feel like venturing out into the heat (and really, who can blame you), we’ve rounded up the best of the newly-streaming from our favorite services.
Jackie Brown (available now): Tarantino does Elmore Leonard, and in the process, gives the legendary Pam Grier the role of a lifetime. We’re not saying it’s his best movie, but we’re not not saying that.
Bad Santa (available now): Don’t let last year’s ill-advised sequel – if you even remember it – detract from your warm memories of this marvelously prickly holiday comedy, with Billy Bob Thornton doing his best W.C. Fields, and Lauren Graham’s most memorable movie role thus far.
Cloud Atlas (available now): The most challenging film to date from the Wachowskis (and, for that matter, from co-director Tom Tykwer), adapting David Mitchell’s sprawling multi-narrative into a very strange, but very exhilarating, piece of work.
The Matrix trilogy (available now): Oh, yeah, and they also directed these.
Innerspace (available now): Gremlins and The Howling may get more love (and more pop-culture collateral), but I’ve always had a soft spot for Joe Dante’s underappreciated 1988 sci-fi comedy, in which test pilot Dennis Quaid is miniaturized and shot into the bloodstream of Martin Short, so he can save Quaid and romance a young Meg Ryan.
Lord of War (available now): Nicolas Cage turns in one of his most complicated performances in this startlingly smart satire on warfare, gunrunning, and world politics, from Gattaca writer/director Andrew Niccol.
The Founder (available now): Michael Keaton’s hot streak continues with this spotty but smart biopic of McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc. John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) is the wrong damn director for this material, but it’s worth your time for the top-shelf turns by Keaton, and by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the aw-shucks businessmen he ripped off.
Icarus (available 8/4): Netflix is debuting this stunt documentary, which went over big at the Sundance Film Festival this year, in which director (and endurance cyclist) Bryan Fogel investigates sports doping by… doping himself, and filming the results.
Donald Cried (available 8/15): There’s “comedy of awkwardness,” and then there’s writer/director/co-star Kris Avedisian’s story of two old friends spending a long, strange reunion evening annoying and rejecting each other. (It’s funnier, and sharper, than it sounds.)
What Happened to Monday (available 8/18): It’s Willem Dafoe and the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doing Orphan Black with Glenn Close. What do I gotta do, draw you a picture here?
AWOL (available 8/21): The wonderful Lola Kirke (Mistress America) stars in this modest but moving small-town drama about an aimless love woman who finds herself in a very unlikely romance.
Death Note (available 8/25): You’re Next/The Guest director Adam Wingard stumbled a bit with his attempt to restart the Blair Witch franchise, but we’re willing to give him another chance via this Netflix original, adapting the notorious Japanese manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
The Dead Zone (available now): With The Dark Tower out tomorrow and It in theaters next month, there’s a lot of love for Stephen King in the air. So it’s a fine time to revisit David Cronenberg’s A-plus 1983 adaptation of King’s novel, which is both an excellent Christopher Walken showcase, and the source of all those memes you kept seeing during the Trump campaign.
Eve’s Bayou (available now): Roger Ebert picked this Gothic drama by director Kasi Lemmons as the best film of 1997 – no mean feat in a year that included L.A. Confidential, Boogie Nights, Jackie Brown, and Titanic. But it’s a terrific piece of work, featuring one of Samuel L. Jackson’s very best performances. (Also streaming on Hulu.)
Hannie Caulder (available now): Raquel Welch is tough, sensitive, and terrific in this nasty little Western revenge flick, as a woman left widowed, raped, and ruined by a trio of repugnant bandits whom she tracks down and takes out with the help of a seen-it-all bounty hunter (the great Robert Culp).
Superbad (available 8/4): Often imitated, but never quite duplicated. Also, that opening credit sequence.
Rachel Getting Married (available now): The first of two picks this month by the late, great Jonathon Demme – and a fitting tribute to the warmth, humanism, and humor of his best work.
Reds (available now): Even coming out of the auteurist ‘70s, it seems nuts that Paramount gave Warren Beatty the money and resources to craft an epic biography of socialist author and activist John Reed. But they did, somehow, and it’s still a knockout.
High Noon (available now): Fred Zinneman’s 1952 Western is mostly remembered for its ingenious construction – it plays out in roughly real time, tick-tocking to the arrival of a vicious killer, culminating with an action-packed shoot-out. But the character beats are what stick, particularly with regards to Gary Cooper, never better as the small-town marshal who must do the right thing, no matter what the cost. (Also on Amazon Prime.)
Clue (available now): This board-game adaptation came and went quickly in its initial 1985 theatrical release, but found a very dedicated audience on home video – where they could better appreciate its rapid-fire dialogue and multiple endings. And don’t forget: Communism was just a red herring.
Saving Private Ryan (available now): Because Dunkirk probably made you want to revisit at least the first half-hour of this one again.
Straight Time (available now): This 1978 crime drama was one of Dustin Hoffman’s most personal projects – he bought the rights to the novel by ex-con Eddie Bunker (aka Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs), and even tried to direct it himself before handing the reins over to Ulu Grosbard. It’s one of his most fascinating performance, in a film that jettisons the slickness of most crime films, and focuses on the straight-up desperation.
Welcome to the Dollhouse (available now): Todd Solondz’s schtick has grown a little tiresome over the past few years, but there’s no denying the blunt effectiveness of his breakthrough black comedy, or its considerable influence over weird indies in the back half the ‘90s. And Heather Matarazzo’s turn as Dawn Weiner is, quite simply, one for the ages.
Tampopo (available 8/9): I know Stefon made “it has everything” a cliché, but seriously, this dryly funny Criterion selection from Japanese director Juzo Itami has everything: it’s a Western, a yakuza movie, a comedy, a martial arts picture, a romance, and even a sports flick. Dig in and enjoy.
Something Wild (available 8/14): Demme again, teaming a never-better Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith as, respectively, an uptight yuppie and the bad girl who frees his wild side – just in time for it to face her menacing ex-husband, played by a truly chilling Ray Liotta.
Grand Illusion (available now): The one-a-day curated service is doing two tremendous series this month. The first is a once-a-week drop of classics from the great French director Jean Renoir, and you may as well start with his masterpiece, this 1937 story of conflict, compromise, and escape.
Champagne (available 8/11): They’re also streaming three very early Alfred Hitchcock works. Two of them, The Skin Game and Rich and Strange, are widely available via public domain services and discs (albeit in much worse shape then this); the real discovery is this 1928 silent film, its storytelling far from the typical Hitchcock playbook, but displaying a flair for eye-catching compositions and mood that is unmistakably Hitch.
Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces (available 8/18): MUBI’s not just a classics service – this Egyptian charmer from director Yousry Nasrallah, about a family of caterers preparing for a wedding, was a hit at both Locarno and Toronto last year.
Battle Royale (available now): Y’know, The Hunger Games, but before all the white people softened it up.
Pi (available now): When the first trailer dropped for Darren Aronofsky’s latest movie mother! earlier this week, there was an odd surplus of “Oh, wow, Aronofsky doing horror, that’ll be interesting” in the reactions. To which we remind you of his debut movie, and the scene where the guy puts the fucking drill to his own head. Enjoy!