We here at the Daily Dot are big fans of streaming TV and movies, but we also know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the massive lists of Netflix’s comings and goings each month. Here’s our curated take of what’s new on Netflix this month.
Vertigo Comics’ hit supernatural comic series Hellblazer became a surprisingly good but unsurprisingly short-lived NBC TV series this past year, but chain-smoking occultist John Constantine made the leap to the big screen a decade ago—even though he lost his accent along the way. Keanu Reeves stars in this 2005 outing directed by Francis Lawrence (the Hunger Games franchise), which sees Constantine caught between the machinations of heaven and hell, with his own soul on the line. The show was certainly a better adaptation of the comic than this film, but the movie has its charms, including Tilda Swinton as an androgynous angel Gabriel and Peter Stormare as a particularly slimy incarnation of Lucifer. It’s not enough to forgive an Americanized Constantine, but hey, Keanu did what he could with it.
Director Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water) helmed this documentary look at the origins of the environmental activist organization Greenpeace. It all started in 1971 with a single fishing boat and a group of true believers determined to stop Richard Nixon’s atomic testing in Amchitka, Alaska. The film focuses particularly on Robert Hunter, whose long career includes stints in journalism and politics as well as eco-activism, and how he co-founded the often-controversial Greenpeace along with several others. How to Change the World won both the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing and the Candescent Award after its premiere at Sundance 2015. It’s currently rated 95 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Netflix is adding two Coen Brothers flicks this month, and while neither is anywhere near the best of the brothers’ works, they’ve still got their moments. InIntolerable Cruelty, George Clooney stars as hotshot divorce attorney Miles Massey, a guy so good at his job that they named an ironclad pre-nup after him. He winds up on the bad side of the beautiful Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) after helping her philandering husband kick her to the curb and leave her nothing. She soon begins to hatch a long con to win Miles’ affections, the better to eventually nab his fortune. This is a Coen Brothers movie, however, so of course things soon get very complicated and very silly. Even though Intolerable Crueltyisn’t considered in the Coens’ top tier, it’s still rated a respectable 75 percent Fresh on RT.
In Meet the Parents (and its inferior sequel, Meet the Fockers) Robert De Niro leverages his tough-guy image to play the intimidating father-in-law every guy dreads of meeting. The man in his crosshairs (and outside his circle of trust) is Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), a well-meaning male nurse who tries and fails at every opportunity to impress De Niro’s Jack Byrnes, a gruff former CIA man who’s convinced Greg isn’t good enough for his daughter (Teri Polo). Greg tries everything he can to prove that he’s worthy and win the affections of his fiancée’s family, but whether it’s clumsily toppling a funeral urn or accidentally burning down a gazebo, the poor Focker just can’t catch a break. Meet the Parents is 84 perfecnt Fresh on RT, proving that they should have stopped while they were ahead. Meet the Fockers—which is also arriving on Netflix Instant and which introduced Greg’s parents in the form of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand—rates only a 38 percent. (The less said about 2010’s Little Fockers, the better.)
Brilliant British comedian, author, and actor Stephen Fry (Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie) recorded this stage performance as part of a 2014 book tour to promote the third volume of his autobiography, titled—you guessed it—More Fool Me. Both the book and this one-man show focus on Fry’s recollections of the tail end of the ’80s and early ’90s, when his career was already well established and the darker side of fame began to intrude, with glamorous parties and celebrity friends sending Fry down the path to excess and addiction. Thankfully, Fry made it out intact, so now he can look back on it all through the lens of his own cutting wit and a few decades’ hindsight, mixing readings from his diaries from that period with his latter-day insights.
I always like to think this is a Home Alone sequel focused on a deeply troubled adult Kevin McCallister, but Macaulay Culkin already kind of made that. But no, it’s actually an acclaimed psychological thriller based on the 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver. Tilda Swinton stars as Eva Khatchadourian, a parent living out a nightmare after her troubled son committed a school massacre. The story unfolds as she remembers her son Kevin’s earlier life, and the various warning signs that the boy was not well. John C. Reilly stars as her husband, Frank, who repeatedly dismisses and downplays her concerns about Kevin (Ezra Miller). The film received critical praise, especially for Swinton’s performance, including from the late Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars and called it “a masterful film.”
6) Training Day (Jan. 4)
Denzel Washington brilliantly played against type in this 2001 crime thriller from director Antoine Fuqua, and his performance earned him an Academy Award for his role as dirty cop Alonzo Harris. Ethan Hawke was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jake Hoyt, a rookie LAPD narcotics officer spending the day training under the legendary and decorated Detective Harris. Hoyt is shaken as he learns how morally gray Harris’ world is, and how many compromises he’s made to navigate the dangerous world that is his day-to-day. Soon, however, the depths of Harris’ corruption become clear, and Harris begins to suspect Hoyt might be a liability he can’t abide.
7) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 10 (Jan. 5)
It’s hard to believe the crew from Paddy’s Pub have been sharing amoral adventures together for a solid decade at this point, but there you have it. Mac, Dee, Dennis, Charlie, and Frank’s 10th year finds them group dating, appearing on a gameshow, attempting to clear Mac’s dad of murder charges, and trying to beat Wade Boggs’ record for the most beers consumed on a cross-country flight. The 11th season of Sunny is scheduled to premiere Jan. 6 on FXX.
8) New Girl: Season 4 (Jan. 5)
On the slightly more twee/less deplorable end of sitcom, we have the Zooey Deschanel Fox sitcom New Girl, which drops its fourth season onto Netflix Instant this month. This outing sees Jess pining for a charming British teacher, Schmidt pursuing a councilwoman, and Cece still struggling with her maddening feelings for Schmidt. You even get to learn Jess’ middle name, which is apparently a whole big deal. The fifth season of New Girl premieres on Fox the same day this season hits Netflix, so you can catch up quickly with some judicious binge-watching and DVRing. (Fun fact: New Girl was developed under the working title of Chicks & Dicks, which they totally should have stuck with.)
9) The Ladykillers (Jan. 12)
The second of the lesser Coen Bros. flicks to hit Netflix Instant this month, The Ladykillers is actually a remake of a 1955 British film starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. Ladykillers was the Coens’ immediate follow-up to their previous flick on this list, Intolerable Cruelty, and features Tom Hanks doing his best Col. Sanders impression as Professor Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, an alleged linguist who’s actually a would-be criminal mastermind. He and his gang—including Marlon Wayans and J.K. Simmons—pose as a band of musicians and rent out the root cellar of an elderly widow for their “rehearsals,” as cover for their scheme to tunnel into the underground vault of a nearby riverboat casino.
10) Parks & Recreation: Season 7 (Jan. 13)
NBC’s hit sitcom starring Amy Poehler wrapped up its run with its seventh season last February, so as of Jan. 13, you’ll be able to binge your way through the entire series. The final year of the Emmy-winning show unfolds in 2017, with Leslie Knope (Poehler) working as Midwest Regional Parks Director and Ron Swanson having left the Parks department to start a construction company. As the season progresses, Leslie and Ron butt heads over her efforts to found a national park in Pawnee, and the emotional series finale flashes forward even further to show what happens to all the characters we came to know and love.
11) Degrassi: Next Class - Season 1 (Jan. 15)
The Canadian teen drama Degrassi has been unfolding in one form or another for over 35 years, beginning as a series of afterschool specials on CBC Television and spawning multiple spin-off shows over the years, including this latest installment.Degrassi: Next Class will feature ties to the previous incarnations but is aimed at being a standalone “soft reboot” of the show, which is easy to do when you’re telling stories about a high school, which has new crops of kids arriving every year. As with earlier versions of Degrassi, Next Class will tell stories that address issues and problems faced by modern teens, from cyberbullying to sexuality to drug use. All 10 episodes of Next Class’ first season will be available for streaming on Jan. 15.
12) The Overnight (Jan. 15)
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are new arrivals to Los Angeles, trying to find their place in a new city and new home. During a family outing to the park with their son, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godreche), a free-spirited hipster couple who invite everyone back to their house for a playdate with their own kid. As the grown-ups bond and the kids eventually go to sleep, it becomes clear that Kurt and Charlotte may have an entirely different kind of playdate in mind. The Overnight is certified 81 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising the talents of both the cast and of writer/director Patrick Brice.
13) Chelsea Does (Jan. 23)
Former E! host Chelsea Handler stars in this new four-part docu-series that will explore a different subject that Handler is interested in each episode: drugs, racism, marriage, and Silicon Valley. Each installment with Handler discussing the topic with a psychologist, then delving into the subject in a broader way. It’s definitely a departure from Handler’s typical image and material, so it’ll be interesting to see her showing viewers, in her own words, her “serious side.” It’s also not the last we’ll be seeing of Handler on Netflix: She has a talk show debuting on the streaming network later in 2016.
Pick of the Month: A Very Murray Christmas (Dec. 4)
One of the best parts of the holidays for cinephiles is revisiting the movies and shows that have become traditional viewing over the years, whether they’re officially “holiday movies” or not. I’ve got a friend who watches Blade Runnerevery Christmas Eve. For me, Edward Scissorhands has always felt very Christmas-y. Well, this year Netflix is looking to add another tradition to your queue, and it may just be the best present ever: It’s A Very Murray Christmas.
The Murray in question is, of course, the only Murray that matters. Bill Murrayheadlines this musical/comedy special directed by Sofia Coppola and also featuring George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Michael Cera, Maya Rudolph, and Miley Cyrus, to name but a few. The storyline focuses on Bill Murray making a TV show and worrying that no one will make it to the taping after a massive snowstorm buries New York. But honestly, does the storyline even matter? It’s Bill Murray, singing and generally being Bill Murray, which is awesome. I think I’ll save this one for Christmas Eve and double-feature it with Scrooged.
Best of the rest:
If you’re one of the folks who’ve encountered David Tennant for the first time as the sadistic Kilgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, we highly recommend checking out his time as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who. But watching him as a benevolent god might be a bit too jarring fresh off the trauma of Jessica Jones. So allow us to point to the excellent British crime drama Broadchurch as a palate cleanser that puts Tennant on the side of the angels. (Not the Weeping Angels.)
Not to be confused with the American remake Gracepoint—which also starred Tennant—Broadchurch casts the Scottish actor as Alec Hardy, one of two detectives charged with investigating the murder of a young boy in a small British town. The show was created by Chris Chibnall, who previously worked on bothDoctor Who and its Torchwood spinoff, as well as Law & Order: UK and Starz’s one-season King Arthur series Camelot. A third season of Broadchurch is scheduled to shoot next summer, but in the meantime the two eight-episode seasons will make for perfect holiday binge watching.
With Vin Diesel having recently announced that he’s working on both a fourthRiddick film and a spinoff TV series set in the Riddick universe, now’s as good a time as any to revisit the hit-or-miss mythology Diesel and writer/director David Twohy have been spinning for 15 years now. That includes the solid 2000 cult classic Pitch Black; its two lesser sequels, 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick and 2013’s Riddick; the excellent Riddick video games, Escape From Butcher Bay andAssault on Dark Athena; and this 2004 direct-to-DVD animated flick that bridges the first two movies.
Dark Fury picks up after Riddick, Jack, and the Imam escape the deadly world featured in Pitch Black, only to be picked up by a ship full of mercenaries. Unfortunately for Riddick, the ship’s captain has an odd hobby of literally collecting criminals, capturing them in suspended animation and using them as living artwork. Needless to say, Riddick isn’t amenable to this arrangement, which means motherfuckers gonna die. Dark Fury was directed by Korean-American animator Peter Chung, best known for creating MTV’s Æon Flux.
Long before he bedeviled Batman as R’as Al Ghul, Liam Neeson played Dr. Peyton Westlake, a brilliant scientist on the cusp of perfecting a revolutionary type of synthetic skin to help burn victims. Unfortunately, after his lawyer girlfriend acquires documents that could incriminate a local crime boss, Peyton gets caught in the middle and blown the fuck up. He survives, just barely: He’s horribly disfigured, incapable of feeling pain, and now flirting with insanity. Fortunately, that’s a useful combination of qualities when you’re about to seek vengeance on a crime syndicate, especially if you’ve also got a synthetic skin formula that lets you disguise yourself. Let the games begin!
A twisted chimera combining director Sam Raimi’s love of pulp heroes like the Shadow and classic screen monsters such as the Phantom of the Opera, Darkmandidn’t reach blockbuster levels like Tim Burton’s Batman the year before, but it did become a cult classic that still gets watched and referenced some 25 years later. It also spawned a couple of direct-to-video sequels, several actual comic-book series, and a failed 1992 TV pilot, which you can watch on YouTube.
We’re now one major holiday beyond peak horror season, but you can only take so much holiday cheer before you need a break. Even if there’s tinsel and colored lights everywhere, that chill in the air will still make for ideal viewing of this underrated ghost story starring Kevin Bacon, directed by David Koepp (War of the Worlds), and based on a novel by the (I am) legendary Richard Matheson.
Bacon plays Tom Witzky, a telephone line repairman living with a pregnant wife and young son in blue-collar Chicago. While he and his friends are having a shindig, Tom makes the mistake of letting his wife’s sister hypnotize him. Unfortunately, the seemingly innocent party trick opens Tom up to something profound: He begins having violent visions of a young girl fighting for her life. Once he eventually learns that the girl from his dreams is a real local teen who vanished a few months earlier, Tom’s obsession with learning what happened to her threatens to tear his family apart.
5) The Da Vinci Code (Dec. 14)
It’s been 12 years, so it’s easy to forget how big a deal Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was in 2003, managing to outsell every other novel of the year that didn’t have “Harry Potter” in the title. The blend of page-turning beach read and faith-baiting controversy was a powerful mix, so naturally Hollywood soon came a-calling, casting Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, an expert in religious symbolism. After the curator of the Louvre is murdered, the authorities are convinced Langdon may have done the dirty deed, forcing him to try and uncover a centuries-old mystery to clear his name. And the secret involved is a whopper, involving the Catholic Church, the Holy Grail, and Jesus Christ himself. Also, Hanks has really weird hair in this, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the conspiracy, so far as I could tell.
6) Helix: Season 2 (Dec. 16)
Helix was one of the first shows out the gate under the current Syfy regimen, which seems genuinely committed to returning the network to its roots and embracing ambitious genre storytelling like it used to. And the show had a solid pedigree, with Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore on board as an executive producer. Unfortunately, Helix was a bloody mess: Season 1 started out as a riff on John Carpenter’s The Thing, then settled into extended wheel-spinning punctuated by batshit-crazy plot twists that would have been more shocking had they made any damn sense at all. There were viruses, silver-eyed immortals, pseudo-zombies, and frozen severed heads. You certainly couldn’t fault the show’s ambition.
Season 2 leaves the arctic setting of its freshman year behind, following CDC disease expert Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and his team to a mysterious island populated by a creepy cult led by that guy from Wings. (No, the other one.) Syfy killed Helix after season 2, so don’t expect all the show’s questions to get satisfying answers.
7) Black Mirror: White Christmas (Dec. 25)
The critically acclaimed British anthology series Black Mirror is one of the best shows of the young century, and a worthy successor to the legacy of Rod Serling’sTwilight Zone. Created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror explores the darker aspects of of our relationship with technology in a brutal and insightful fashion that eschews easy answers. Netflix earned a collective high five from all of us earlier this year with the announcement that it’d be producing a third season of the show, but while we’re waiting for those new episodes to come down the pike, there’s still one you might not have seen yet. The holiday special “White Christmas,” starring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, hasn’t previously been available on Netflix… but that’s about to change. “White Christmas” intertwines three different stories, including some of the show’s darkest material yet. This is not feel-good television, but we’ll celebrate its Netflix arrival as a Christmas miracle just the same.
8) Maron: Season 3 (Dec. 28)
Standup comedian/podcaster Marc Maron stars as a fictionalized version of himself, trying to balance his personal life and career against the constant realization that he’s usually his own worst enemy. In season 3, Marc struggles with success, invites his ex-wife onto his podcast, and dabbles with antidepressants. If you’re a fan of Maron’s standup or his long-running WTF Podcast, you’ll find plenty to like in Maron. The show has already been renewed for a fourth season on IFC, so expect more to come in 2016.
9) Nurse Jackie: Seasons 1-7 (Dec. 31)
Hulu launched a major partnership with Showtime this past summer, but Netflix continues to acquire the network’s shows as they wrap up, and at the end of the month Nurse Jackie will join Weeds, Dexter, and Californication in the Netflix queue. Jackie stars Sopranos alum Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton, a put-upon ER nurse who numbs the stress of her job with pills. Jackie earned critical praise for its dark humor and explorations of addiction, not to mention a Best Actress Emmy Award for Falco in 2010.
1) Jessica Jones: Season 1 (Nov. 20)
With Jessica Jones (formerly A.K.A. Jessica Jones), Marvel is doing the same thing it did with flicks like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man: taking risks. Marvel made a massive small-screen success out of Daredevil, a character that had been languishing in big-screen development hell for years. So next up? An obscure Marvel character all but the most die-hard fans probably haven’t even heard of.And it’s not a traditional superhero tale and it’s incredibly dark material and it’s got the most generic title since John Carter. You certainly can’t accuse Marvel of playing it safe. Thankfully, there’s every reason to be optimistic that Jessica Joneswill carry on the solid momentum built by Daredevil and further flesh out this seedy little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the path toward Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the eventual Defenders Netflix miniseries.
So who the hell is Jessica Jones? Well, she was a costumed superhero for a hot minute, until that career… ended badly. The man responsible for that end was Kilgrave, a sociopath with the metahuman ability to make people do whatever he tells them to. It’s not hard to imagine how that sort of power could be abused, and abuse it he does. (With Doctor Who’s David Tennant in the role of Kilgrave, there are sure to be a lot of traumatized Whovians if the show goes half as dark with his storyline as the comics did.) Now Jessica (Krysten Ritter) works as a private investigator, deeply scarred by her past and just trying to get by. Along the way she meets Luke Cage (Mike Colter), another mysterious figure with powers of his own, including a powerful romantic connection with Jessica. Jessica Jones was created and developed by Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter), based on the critically acclaimed comics by Brian Michael Bendis, and the pilot episode received a rousing reception at New York Comic-Con a few weeks back. Fingers crossed that this show keeps up Marvel’s winning streak.
Based on the series of young adult novels by Kass Morgan, The 100 is set a century after a global nuclear war wiped out most of humanity. Thankfully some small percentage of mankind was living aboard 12 space stations orbiting the planet. They unified as “the Ark” and spent the next 97 years cobbling together a makeshift society… but one that’s on the verge of disaster, thanks to failing life support. Out of desperation, the Ark’s leadership conjures up a truly crazy plan: Drop 100 expendable juvenile delinquents back to the surface to see if the planet can support human life yet. But Earth has become a dangerous place in all those long years, and it harbors many secrets. If you get hooked on The 100 after a Netflix binge, the series will return for a third season in 2016.
Rory Kennedy (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib) directed this documentary look at the dire final weeks of the Vietnam War. With the local citizenry desperate to escape as the North Vietnamese army inched ever closer to Saigon, United States forces were ordered to evacuate themselves and any American citizens—but only American citizens. Last Days in Vietnam examines the closing act of a war that defined a generation through archival footage and interviews with those who were there. Kennedy’s documentary currently boasts an impressive 95 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
4) Twinsters (Nov. 1)
There are plenty of fascinating things to discover on YouTube, but Anais Bordier found something wholly unexpected: a twin sister she didn’t know she had. A French fashion design student living in London in 2013, Anais had the no-doubt surreal experience of seeing a video online featuring American actress Samantha Futerman...who looked exactly like her. A bit of Googling and social networking later, Anais contacted Samantha and the pair became convinced they’d been separated at birth. The Kickstarter-funded documentary Twinsters follows the stranger-than-fiction tale of their meeting and burgeoning relationship. Moral of the story: Maybe don’t ignore all those emails from names you don’t recognize.
5) The Midnight Swim (Nov. 3)
Few horror movies have ever hit me in the gut as strongly as Lake Mungo, and I’m intrigued by the creepy, understated trailer for The Midnight Swim because it gives me the same kind of vibe: an aura of sadness and unsettling strangeness, the sense both of something bad having happened and something worse yet to come. Similar to Lake Mungo, The Midnight Swim is set in motion by a death—in this case, the death of a mother, who vanishes while diving in the notoriously deep Spirit Lake. Her three daughters, one a filmmaker, return home to grieve and deal with her affairs, but strange occurrences drag them deeper into the mysteries of the lake. The Midnight Swim has received strong critical praise for its story and performances, currently holding an 83 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
6) Master of None: Season 1 (Nov. 6)
Netflix has been building a solid catalog of diverse, original comedies over the past couple of years, from BoJack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt toGrace & Frankie and the Wet Hot American Summer prequel. Landing a new series from popular comic and Parks & Recreation vet Aziz Ansari was a major get. Ansari co-created Master of None with Parks & Rec producer Alan Yang, and Ansari stars as Dev, a 30-something actor navigating family, relationships, and generally trying to make a go of it in the Big Apple. Treat yo’self to all 10 episodes of the first season when it premieres this month.
7) With Bob and David: Season 1 (Nov. 13)
I would have thought Netflix had exhausted its comedy miracles with its seven-years-later resurrection of Arrested Development. But it trumped that feat entirely by getting the principals behind HBO’s brilliant Mr. Show back together for With Bob and David. In addition to Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the new Netflix sketch comedy series also reunites much of the Mr. Show writing team, including Brian Posehn and Dino “Star-Burns from Community” Stamatopoulos. Mr. Showhas justifiably ascended into the holy pantheon of comedy in the 20 years since it aired on HBO, so the show has a high bar to clear. But if there’s a chance it could give us even one sketch as good as “Pre-Taped Call-In Show,” there’s more than enough reason to be giddy.
8) Blue Caprice (Nov. 14)
Sadly, there have been so many horrific headlines in the years since, many of us have probably all but forgotten about the Beltway Sniper shootings of 2002. Director Alexandre Moors’ Blue Caprice tells the story of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo, who killed 17 people and injured more in a crime spree that stretched across several states before culminating in the Washington murders that captured the world’s attention. Named after the modified vehicle from which they fired their shots, Blue Caprice examines Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) and Malvo’s (Tequan Richmond) twisted father-son relationship and the unsettling banality of evil.
9) Continuum: Season 4 (Nov. 15)
As a fan of both Rachel Nichols and time-travel stories done well, I was intrigued by Continuum when the Canadian series popped up on Syfy a few years back. However, I soon got sidetracked and never returned to the show after midway through its first season. I’ve had multiple friends who stuck with it singing its praises to me nonstop pretty much ever since, insisting that the series soon became bold and unpredictable in much the same way shows like Fringe andPerson of Interest eventually blew past the limitations of their first impressions. Nichols stars as Kiera Cameron, a cop from a corporate-controlled 2077 Vancouver who follows several “freedom fighters”/terrorists back in time to 2012, where she must track down the fugitives, try and get home, and struggle with the realization that her very actions may already have cut off any access to her own time—or permanently rewritten it. All four seasons will be available streaming by mid-month.
10) Soaked in Bleach (Nov. 15)
It’s been over two decades since the death of legendary Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who took his own life on April 5, 1994. Like many fallen celebrities before him, however, his death has become a nexus of conspiracy theories for those who won’t, or can’t, believe the official explanation. Mixing dramatizations with interviews and documentary footage, Soaked in Bleach explores the persistent theories that Cobain’s death wasn’t actually a suicide. It revisits the events through the eyes of private investigator Tom Grant, who was hired by Cobain’s wife Courtney Love to track him down in the weeks before his death. Unsurprisingly,Soaked in Bleach has aroused plenty of controversy, with Love’s lawyers sending out cease and desist letters to theaters and detractors trying to sabotage its Rotten Tomatoes rating before it was even released.
11) The Red Road: Season 2 (Nov. 23)
Most people know Jason Momoa from his role as Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and he’s going to spend the next decade or so immersed in the big-screen DC Cinematic Universe in the role of Aquaman. In between those two life-changing events, Momoa played a heavy in Sundance’s original scripted series The Red Road. Martin Henderson plays Harold Jensen, a recovering alcoholic sheriff in a fictional Jersey town called Walpole. After a cover-up involving his mentally ill wife, Jensen is forced into an alliance with Phillip Kopus, an unsavory member of the local Ramapough Mountain tribe. With its mix of crime, corruption, and Native American politics, it reminds me a bit of Longmire. The series received decent reviews, but it was canceled after its second season. Still, that makes for perfect bite-size binge-watching. If you dig it, definitely also check out Sundance’sRectify.
12) Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (Nov. 29)
The Cannon Films logo was a persistent presence in the B-movie circuit throughout the 1980s, often attached to movies starring Sylvester Stallone (Cobra) or Chuck Norris (Missing in Action), as well as Tobe Hooper’s cult classic “space vampire” flick Lifeforce. They also gave us some of the decade’s easiest punchlines, such as the Stallone arm wrestling movie Over the Top, the Masters of the Universe movie, and the flick which gave both this documentary its title and the internet one of its favorite memes: the mock-worthy breakdancing sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Director Mark Harley’s 2014 documentary examines the rise and fall of the notorious Cannon Group featuring interviews with the likes of Tobe Hooper, Richard Chamberlain, Bo Derek, Elliott Gould, Dolph Lundgren, and Molly Ringwald, to name a few.
Having established a solid foothold in the world of streaming television with shows like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Daredevil, now Netflix is stepping into the world of film with Beasts of No Nation. Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga (HBO’s True Detective, season 1), Beasts stars Idris Elba and Abraham Attah in a story about civil war and child soldiers in an unnamed African country. Attah plays Agu, a young boy who is recruited into the rebel forces of the NDF after his family is executed. Elba is the Commandant, both commander and twisted father figure to Agu as he serves as a pawn of the forces ripping his homeland apart. Netflix released Beasts simultaneously on streaming and as a limited release in theaters, continuing to shift the dynamics of the media landscape in a way that has some theater owners irked (four theater chains, including AMC and Cinemark, are boycotting the film for violating the traditional 90-day theatrical release window). Both Elba and Attah have received tons of critical praise for their Beasts performances, and there’s already potential Oscar buzz for the both of them. Netflix has already acquired a shelf full of Emmys, so can an Academy Award or two be far behind?
Best of the rest
While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a true masterpiece, Batman Beginsis arguably a better realization of Batman/Bruce Wayne himself, if only because it doesn’t have Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Joker to steal the spotlight. Bale’s gruff Batman voice may still be an easy punchline, but his haunted, determined portrayal of the crimefighter is still one of the best, and the script by Nolan and David S. Goyer actually makes the concept of a rodent-dressed vigilante scaring the shit out of hardened criminals grounded and believable. If somebody really was going to become Batman, it would pretty much have to happen like this. (Except for maybe the fear gas and the ninjas.)
I’ll always have a special soft spot for Magnolia (that montage!), but Boogie Nights rivals it for the position of my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson flick to date.Mark Wahlberg stars as doofy high school dropout Eddie Adams, who is reborn as “Dirk Diggler” after porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) discovers him and his star-making schlong. In between all the boot-knocking, Dirk finds a new dysfunctional family in his porn crew, but his cockiness (ahem) paves the way for his own eventual downfall. The amazing cast also includes Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, William H. Macy, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to name a few.
It’s a little frustrating that The Bourne Ultimatum wasn’t included with Netflix’s October update, but even two-thirds of one of the best action franchises of all time is still plenty to be excited about. Matt Damon sells both the badassery and the tortured humanity as a former covert agent with a Swiss cheese memory and loads of people who would really prefer he be dead now, thanks. And if you want to finish out the trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum is available from Amazon and other digital retailers.
You have to admire the gumption of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp for thinking they could improve upon Gene Wilder’s iconic performance as mysterious confectioner in 1971’s WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Actually, no, you don’t, it was a terrible idea. Still, if you liked the story of Wonka and Charlie but thought it needed a less charismatic lead and a bunch of the same schtick Burton has been serving up for the past several decades, help yourself. Me, I’ll stick with the creepy-ass boat ride and the sheer, pitch-black brilliance of Wilder-Wonka. Good day, sir!
Hilary Swank earned her second Best Actress Academy Award for her performance as an underdog amateur boxer who is taken under the wing of a weary trainer haunted by his past (Clint Eastwood). Baby also earned trophies for director Eastwood and supporting actor Morgan Freeman—oh, and it nabbed the Best Picture Oscar for 2005. The flick is based on the short stories of fight manager Jerry Boyd, so it’s certainly not lacking for verisimilitude. Adapted for the screen by Paul Haggis (Crash), it’s a powerful and emotional story of redemption and tragedy, but it’s also depressing as all hell. Don’t watch it unless you’re ready for a downer.
Wes Craven soiled the pants of an entire generation with his stories of teenagers being tormented in their dreams by a vicious, knife-fingered psychopath who could kill you while you slept. If Freddy Krueger ever frightened you, the documentary The Nightmare will likely scare the snot right out of you, because it examines the very real phenomenon known as “sleep paralysis,” a condition where the sufferer experiences vivid, frightening dreams or hallucinations while incapable of moving or waking up. It would be a very bad idea to watch this before bed time … which I wish someone had told me before I made that very mistake.The Nightmare was directed by Rodney Ascher, who previously earned both attention and critical acclaim for 2012’s Room 237.
The CW’s period drama is currently chugging through its third season, continuing the net’s history of letting shows grow and find their audience even if they aren’t breakout hits. Created by Laurie McCarthy and Stephanie Sengupta (Ghost Whisperer), Reign explores the early life of Mary, Queen of Scots. In season 2, King Henry II is dead, and Mary and her husband Francis have ascended to the throne of Scotland. Unfortunately, the land has been devastated by a plague, religious discord is rife, and politics continues to be deadly. (Reign airs Friday nights at 7pm CT on the CW.)
Based on the Vertigo comic-book series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred,iZombie stars Rose McIver as Olivia “Liv” Moore, a morgue worker who regularly “samples the merchandise.” She’s a zombie, and she has to eat brains both to survive and to be able to pass as the living. But all that noshed gray matter has some gnarly side effects, allowing her to see flashes of the dearly departed’s lives and deaths. Being a civically minded zombie, Liv poses as a psychic and uses her abilities to help the local cops solve the murders of those on her menu. iZombiewas adapted for TV by Diane Ruggiero-Wright (Bates Motel) and Rob Thomas, the genius who gave us Veronica Mars. iZombie’s second season is currently airing Tuesday nights at 8pm CT on the CW.
DC may be trying to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe with next year’s Batman v Superman, but I’m far more interested in the shared TV mythology it created with Arrow and expanded with the breakaway CW hit The Flash. Grant Gustin is perfect as speedster Barry Allen, a crime scene investigator haunted by his mother’s murder by a superfast mystery man. After being granted powers of his own by a freak accident, he struggles to defend his home of Central City against a rogue’s gallery of villains, as well as to solve the mystery of his origins and clear the name of his father, who’s in jail for the murder of his mom. The Flash is action-packed, funny, earnest, and charming as hell, a perfect slice of Silver Age comic-book fun updated for the smartphone era. You can keep your brooding Dark Knights and even your Men of Steel; I’ll stick with the Fastest Man Alive, thanks. (Season 2 of The Flash is currently airing Tuesday nights at 8/7c on the CW.)
Of course, there would be no Flash without the show that spawned it, the CW’s take on DC’s emerald archer, the Green Arrow. After being lost on a remote island for years, aloof playboy Oliver Queen learned the skills and the drive to return to his home of Starling City and take down all the crooks and corrupt officials who have “failed this city.” In season 3, Oliver and his team of noble vigilantes faces his most overwhelming foe yet: the nigh immortal Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins. Arrow has had its ups and downs over the years, but its strength has always been its charismatic cast, including Emily Bett Rickards as adorable tech expert Felicity Smoak, David Ramsey as stalwart badass John Diggle, and Stephen Amell as the wounded but well-intentioned Oliver. Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 7pm CT on the CW.
Sean Bean—he of the frequent onscreen expirations—headlines this TNT thriller series as Martin Odum, a crack undercover FBI man who can become damn near anybody but whose revolving door of identities leaves him questioning both his sanity and his own real identity. Based on an award-winning novel by Robert Littell, Legends was adapted for television by Howard Gordon (24, Homeland), Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), and Mark Bomback (The Divergent Series: Insurgent). Legends will return for a second season on TNT beginning Nov. 2.
Carry on, my wayward sons, indeed. Supernatural is one of the shows that helped build The CW, so it’s not surprising that the network has continued to return that support, allowing the show to build a large and loyal following over the past decade. Brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) have a lot of bad road behind them, having faced down creatures from every corner of your nightmares and lost pretty much everyone they care for along the way. In season 10, Dean has fallen prey to a terrible darkness, and Sam works to try and find a way to bring him back from the precipice before he does something unforgivable. Supernatural’s 11th season is currently airing Wednesday nights at 8pm CT on the CW.
In addition to becoming a power player on the original scripted drama front, Netflix has been racking up quite a track record for acquiring top-notch documentaries, including What Happened, Miss Simone? and Mitt. That trend continues with Winter on Fire, which delves into the protests and civil unrest that rocked Ukraine in 2013, eventually resulting in the Ukrainian revolution the following year. As the official synopsis puts it, “The film captures the remarkable mobilization of nearly a million citizens from across the country protesting the corrupt political regime that utilized extreme force against its own people to suppress their demands and freedom of expression.”
Adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela, Jane the Virgin is the story of a devout young Latina woman who is saving herself for marriage … until a doctor mistakenly artificially inseminates her during what was supposed to just be a checkup. As if that’s not awkward enough, the father of her new aspiring bundle of joy is 1) married, 2) her former teenage crush, and 3) the owner of the hotel where she works. That’s one helluva triple-whammy. Actress Gina Rodriguez won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her performance as Jane, and the series also earned both a Peabody Award and an AFI Award. Jane the Virgin returned for a second season on Oct. 12, and new episodes air Mondays at 8pm CT on the CW.
15) Circle (Oct. 16)
The 2015 horror/sci-fi flick Circle begins with a simple but intriguing premise: 50 people awaken to find themselves in a strange room with no memory of how they got there. They are arranged in a circle, and very soon, something unseen begins killing them. Every two minutes, another person dies, but the group soon realizes they can control the carnage … to an extent. They can’t stop it, but they can decide who dies next, through an act of collective will. So how do you direct a chain of death that very well may kill all of you? Who deserves to live the longest, or maybe even to be the last man standing? The Hollywood Reporter described Circle as “Twilight Zone-y” in its generally positive review, and that’s certainly good company to be in.
Ruth (Rooney Mara) and Bob (Casey Affleck) are a pair of wannabe Bonnie and Clydes for whom one job goes very bad indeed. Their buddy Freddy is killed, Ruth shoots a sheriff, and Bob decides take the fall for the whole mess so the pregnant Ruth can raise their child. Years later, Bob escapes from prison and hopes for a happy reunion with the mother of his child, but his oncoming presence could collapse the lie that has permitted Ruth a somewhat normal life while he was in the clink. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was written and directed by Texas filmmaker David Lowery, who’s currently working on Disney’s remake of Pete’s Dragon.
Just in time for Halloween, Netflix’s horror/thriller series is returning for a third and final season. If you’ve been curious about the show are a horror junkie, this will be the perfect excuse for a binge-a-thon. The series, executive produced by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel), centers on a fictional Pennsylvania town plagued by violence, supernatural goings-on, and Famke Janssen. Season 3 promises more monsters, more gore, and possibly even the “end of days.” Sadly, the most carnage involving the show may have come from the critics savaging it for the past two seasons. Still, they’re called “guilty pleasures” for a reason.
17) Manson Family Vacation (Oct. 27)
Reconnecting with the brother you never really got along with is a noble enough goal. Unfortunately for Nick Morgan (Jay Duplass), all his estranged brother Conrad (Linas Phillips) wants to do during his visit to Los Angeles is tour the Manson Family murder sites. Well, they always say the family that becomes just a little too interested in a bunch of homicidal psychopaths together, stays together… right? The film began life as a Kickstarter project, and it’s currently rocking a damned impressive 100 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
18) The Gunman (Oct. 28)
Sean Penn tries to follow in Liam Neeson’s footsteps on the “respectable older actor tries out the action-hero thing” path. Penn is Jim Terrier, a veteran black-ops merc who left the soldier’s life behind after successfully assassinating a government official in Africa. Years later, he returns to the “scene of the crime” for nobler purposes, serving as a charity worker. Unfortunately, his dark past catches up with him when he’s attacked, forcing him to go on the run in search of the truth about who wants him dead—and why.
Pick of the Month: The Walking Dead: Season 5 (Sept. 27)
Fellow cord-cutters, rejoice! The long weeks spent plugging your ears and avoiding social media are drawing to a close, and if you’ve managed to remain unspoiled about The Walking Dead’s most recent season this long, you’ve only got a little while longer to remain in self-imposed exile. Season 4 was a long walk toward the uncertain destination known as “Terminus,” and that supposed safe haven proved about as hospitable as the name suggests. Season 5 finds Rick and his fellow survivors fighting to escape from their (latest) captors and once again in search of sanctuary in a world that seems determined to bury them in a steady torrent of blood and bad days. The Walking Dead has always been uneven, but season 5 is a welcome return to form in just about every way imaginable, and it’s a helluva lot more entertaining than the misguided (and unfortunately named) prequel series,Fear the Walking Dead. (It even includes the return of one fan favorite from the show’s earliest days.)
Best of the rest
Based on the larger-than-life story of British archaeologist and soldier T.E. Lawrence, this 1962 classic follows Lawrence’s World War I adventures across the Arabian Peninsula, during which he first fought against and eventually found himself sympathizing with the various local tribes. The film won a whopping seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. It’s also jaw-droppingly, eye-gapingly gorgeous, so you’ll want to view it on the biggest screen possible. I personally am planning on breaking into AT&T Stadium and borrowing the Jumbotron.
Even if you don’t give a fig about football—of either the fantasy or the IRL varieties—there’s plenty to love about FX’s The League. The show is about a group of friends who compete in an aggressive fantasy league, battling each other for “The Shiva,” an eyesore trophy named for their high school valedictorian. Football may be the ostensible focus of the show, but really it’s just an excuse to watch this crew lie, cheat, manipulate, and screw each over in their dogged pursuit of victory at all costs.
Oh lordy, I love it when Netflix drags out a relic like this one. It’s been three decades since I’ve seen this thing, but I’m going to go ahead and guess it doesn’t hold up without the nostalgia filter dialed up to 11. Thankfully, my nostalgia filter is strong, so I’m looking forward to introducing my kids to the musclebound He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), who finds himself transported to Earth
to keep the budget down in order to retrieve the magical Cosmic Key before Skeletor (Frank Langella) and his minions can get to it. Also enjoy an embarrassing early-career appearance by a pre-Friends Courteney Cox. Hopefully the new movie will be better....
Netflix continues its plan to assist me in my master plan to get my kids hooked on every educational staple of my own childhood. First they added episodes of Bill Nye, the Science Guy to the Instant catalog, then Reading Rainbow. Now the gentle, sweater-wearing Presbyterian minister who taught so many of us not to be dicks is available for streaming. The beloved PBS children’s program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood aired from 1968 to 2001, and this first Netflix “volume” includes 20 episodes from the series’ long history. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
Ask someone to list off great ’80s kids’ films, and you’ll get stuff like Goonies,Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal. The Monster Squad may not make the top 10 lists as often as those undisputed classics, but it deserves more love than it gets, both because it pits a group of horror-movie-loving kids against versions of Universal’s classic movie monsters and because it gave us the immortal line “Wolfman’s got nards!” Monster Squad was co-written by Fred Dekker, who also penned the ’80s cult classic Night of the Creeps, and Shane Black, who became one of the most highly paid screenwriters of all time with flicks such as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. Black has staged a major comeback in recent years with flicks like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, and he’s recently reunited with Dekker for the Amazon Western pilot Edge.
Most people had probably never heard of the events of the so-called “Canadian caper” until Ben Affleck’s Argo brought the daring rescue mission back into the public consciousness. That flick was a rousing good time, but for anyone curious to learn more about the real-life CIA-backed mission to rescue U.S. diplomats from the midst of the Iran hostage crisis, look no further than Our Man in Tehran. The 2013 documentary focuses on the heroic actions of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and his staff, who put their own lives at risk to shelter six American diplomats and cooperate in a scheme to smuggle them out of Iran.
What if you had a machine that could predict violent crimes before they could happen? That’s the high concept behind Person of Interest, CBS’ sci-fi procedural created by Jonathan Nolan, brother and frequent collaborator of Dark Knightdirector Christopher Nolan. What began as a relatively boilerplate sci-fi procedural has evolved into a fascinating exploration of morality and artificial intelligence. Lost’s Michael Emerson stars as Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire and software genius who created the Machine. Jim Caviezel plays John Reese, a troubled Special Forces/CIA veteran recruited by Finch to be the means to his ends. Seasons 1-3 are currently streaming on Netflix Instant, and season 4 will be available beginning Sept. 22. The show’s fifth season will premiere on CBS this fall.
The Rambo Trilogy (Sept. 1)
Netflix added the first five Rocky movies a while ago, and now it’s lined up Sylvester Stallone’s other huge ’80s franchise. Beginning with 1982’s First Blood, Stallone introduced the world to John Rambo, a battle-scarred Vietnam vet trying and failing to move beyond his traumatic experiences in the war. Based on the novel by David Morrell, the first Rambo movie is a bit less cartoonish than the ones that followed, pitting Rambo against unfriendly small-town cops when he just wants to be left alone. First Blood Part II sends Rambo back to Vietnam to rescue POWs, and Rambo III drops him into Afghanistan to retrieve his friend Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), who has been captured by Soviet soldiers. (The 2008 follow-up, titled simply Rambo, isn’t currently available on Netflix.)
Tim Burton’s spin on Washington Irving’s spooky 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow envisions the Headless Horseman as a former Hessian mercenary turned supernatural killing machine, and Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) as a cowardly but brilliant New York police constable sent to the titular village to investigate a series of brutal murders. Give it a watch and see if you can erase the memory of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Dark Shadows.
George Clooney plays a corporate “downsizer” named Ryan Bingham, a man whose life consists of airplanes and airports, traveling from one city to the next so he can deliver terrible news to people who are suddenly without a job. His comfortable life on the go is threatened by Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a new hire with a plan to replace Ryan’s job with videoconferencing. To make matters worse, he’s assigned the indignity of “showing her the ropes,” a task—along with his relationship with fellow frequent flyer Alex (Vera Farmiga)—that soon has Ryan questioning his whole philosophy on life. (For more from Up in the Air co-writer/director Jason Reitman, check out Men, Women & Children on Amazon Prime beginning Sept. 12.)
Zathura is based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg, the same guy who wroteJumanji, so calling Zathura “Jumanji in space” isn’t just easy shorthand. Much like in Jumanji, the events of Zathura are driven by a mysterious board game discovered by curious kids, but in this case the game in question unleashes meteor showers and hostile aliens rather than monkeys and Robin Williams. Apparently Chris Van Allsburg was seriously traumatized by a board game at some point in his life. Zathura was directed by a post-Swingers, pre-Iron Man Jon Favreau, so it’s got a good pedigree, if nothing else.
Tea Leoni stars as Dr. Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, a former CIA analyst and college professor turned United States Secretary of State. Wings alum Tim Daly plays her husband, Cheers’ Bebe Neuwirth her chief of staff, and Keith Carradine stands in as POTUS Conrad Dalton. Madam Secretary follows McCord’s struggles to balance her personal and family life against the demands of one of the nation’s highest offices. The political drama was created by Judging Amy/Joan of Arcadiaveteran Barbara Hall, and the show will return for a second season on Oct. 4.
Longmire: Season 4 (Sept. 9)
Fans rallied to try and save Longmire after A&E canceled it last year, and thankfully Netflix eventually agreed to pony up for a fourth season. Based on Craig Johnson’s series of “Walt Longmire Mysteries” books, Longmire stars Robert Taylor as Sheriff Walt Longmire, a gruff and laconic lawman who keeps the peace in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is still grieving the death of his wife, which was a lot more complicated than the “cancer” explanation he told their daughter, and the truth about what really happened to her forms an ongoing arc as the series progresses. Battlestar Galactica fan favorite Katee Sackhoff co-stars as Victoria “Vic” Moretti, Walt’s deputy and a former Philadelphia homicide detective with skeletons of her own. Lou Diamond Phillips recurs as Henry Standing Bear, owner of the Red Pony Cafe, Walt’s best friend, and a frequent middle man between Walt and the local Native American population. Season 4 will pick up right where season 3 left off, with Walt bent on revenge after having learned the truth about who was responsible for his wife’s death.
I’m a sucker for a good heist flick, and The Bank Job has the added appeal of being based on a real-life robbery from which the stolen goods were never recovered. Jason Statham stars in one of his less punchy roles, playing Terry Leather, a car salesman whose friend talks him into mounting a “foolproof” bank robbery, unaware that his seemingly benevolent friend (Saffron Burrows) has secret motivations of her own. The target is a roomful of safety deposit boxes filled with money and jewelry… but the contents of one of those boxes will put Terry and his crew in the crosshairs of powerful people.
Wes Anderson’s movies can definitely be love-them-or-hate-them affairs, with his style sometimes hovering right near the border of self-parody. Still, nobody else makes movies quite like him these days, and as long as he keeps attracting casts that include the likes of Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman, I’ll keep on coming back. InMoonrise Kingdom, Anderson conjures an eccentric vision of a 1960s New England summer camp, two smitten 12-year-olds who run away together, and how their disappearance turns the local community on its ear. Moonrise Kingdom was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay award in 2013, and it’s currently boasting a 94 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
James Spader is at his best when he’s chewing scenery as the smartest man in the room who also knows he’s the smartest man in the room and who is eager to remind the rest of us that we’re a bunch of dolts. That description more than fits Raymond “Red” Reddington, the brilliant criminal mastermind at the heart of The Blacklist. This month Netflix will be adding season 2 of the NBC hit, in which Red continues to assist the FBI—and young profiler Liz Keen (Megan Boone) in particular—in tracking down some of the most dangerous crooks on the planet. It’s pure popcorn television that steps back and lets Spader shine, and you’ve got a few weeks left to binge before the show returns for a third season on Oct. 1.
Academy Award–winning director Morgan Nevilla helms this documentary look at the iconic Rolling Stones guitarist, currently enjoying his 72nd trip around the sun. Under the Influence follows Richards as he works on Crosseyed Heart, his first solo album in over two decades, and will include interviews, archival material, and “both new and beloved music.” Richards’ new album will release the same dayUnder the Influence hits Netflix, so Stones fans will have plenty to look forward to. You can listen to “Trouble,” a track off Crosseyed Heart, below.
Gotham: Season 1 (Sept. 21)
Gotham was simultaneously one of the biggest hits and one of the most frustrating viewing experiences of the 2014-2015 TV year. Robin Lord Taylor gave a breakout performance as a cowardly, manipulative young version of Batman villain the Penguin, but too often this “pre-capes” prequel felt like an exercise in pointless wheel-spinning, a never-ending parade of “Hey, look who it is!” without many compelling reasons to actually give a shit about these characters. Still, I’d be lying if I said the show didn’t have its moments—many of them involving Donal Logue’s morally flexible Detective Harvey Bullock—and young David Mazouz does far better with the thankless role of a pre-pubescent Bruce Wayne than anyone could have expected. Am I damning with faint praise? It’s only because you should be watching Arrow/The Flash instead. Gotham season 2 premieres on Fox the same day this hits Netflix, which is decidedly binge-unfriendly.
The beloved children’s program was back in the news last year after host LeVar Burton launched a massively successful Kickstarter campaign to both resurrect the show and bring it to as many schools as possible, free of charge. Now Netflix is bringing the classic original series to its streaming catalog, hopefully exposing a whole new generation to Burton’s infectious love of reading. Between this and the May arrival of Bill Nye, the Science Guy, Netflix seems to be making a run on the educational shows of my youth, and I couldn’t be happier. My kids are just getting old enough to have an interest in storybooks, so I can’t wait to work through theReading Rainbow catalog with them. This first “volume” includes such classics asIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare,” along with 23 other episodes.
Best of the rest:
This 2014 documentary follows five Israeli high school graduates as they transition into their compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces’ army paratrooper brigade. For those unfamiliar, citizens of Israel are required to serve in the military after reaching the age of 18 (although there are exceptions), often for three years or more. Beneath the Helmet is presented as a coming-of-age story, exploring the lives of an Ethiopian immigrant, a female sergeant, a Swiss volunteer, a soldier descended from Holocaust survivors, and the unit’s commander, all struggling to balance their service with their personal lives and family commitments. It doesn’t look like Beneath the Helmet has a Rotten Tomatoes page at the moment, but it’s currently rocking an impressive 9.4 user rating on IMDb.
In 2003, documentarian Morgan Spurlock subjected himself to ungodly amounts of McDonald’s for his movie Super-Size Me. Stoner comedian Doug Benson responded in 2008 with Super High Me, which was sort of the same thing but with Benson consuming enough marijuana to give most of the West Coast the munchies. Now Benson is nipping at Spurlock’s heels again with Chronic-Con, Episode 420: A New Dope, which riffs on Spurlock’s 2011 flick Comic-Con: Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Chronic-Con follows the comedian through a hazy landscape of cosplayers, fans, and celebs, including Spurlock, Joe Rogan, Brian Posehn, and fellow stoner Kevin Smith, to name just a few. Having been several times over the years, I can only imagine the surreal experience of Comic-Con is even weirder when viewed through an ever-present fog of pot smoke. I just hope Benson brought his own snacks; convention center food is crazy expensive.
Netflix is kicking off the month with several intriguing new documentary additions, and this one is pretty much guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings of any animal lover. Dogs on the Inside explores a program that pairs abandoned rescue dogs with inmates at a Massachusetts prison. It’s about more than just companionship: Many of the dogs have been abused or mistreated, so their new human partners must first earn the animals’ trust, a commodity unquestionably in short supply behind bars. The inmates help save dogs that would otherwise likely be euthanized, and both human and canine partners help rehabilitate each other and hopefully put their darker times behind them. Honestly, I can already tell you I won’t be making it through this one without choking up a little.
Set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II, Enemy at the Gates stars Jude Law as Vassili Zaitsev, a former shepherd serving as a sniper in the Russian Army. After saving the life of one Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), Vassili becomes a propaganda tool for Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev, with the army newspaper spinning tales about the young marksman’s heroic exploits against the invading Nazis. The Germans soon take notice and deploy their own lethal sniper, tasking Major Erwin König (Ed Harris) with putting a bullet through Vassili’s brain. Loosely based on the experiences of the real-life Vassili Zaitsev, Enemy at the Gates follows the dueling snipers as they lead each other on a game of cat-and-mouse against the backdrop of one of the bloodiest battles in history.
From the rubble of World War II-era Stalingrad, venture forward 60 years and into another war entirely. Written by Mark Boal, a journalist who was embedded with an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Baghdad in 2004, The Hurt Locker follows Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner), a veteran assigned to lead a bomb disposal team after his predecessor is killed by an IED. His maverick—or reckless—approach to an inherently dangerous job does little to endear him to his new squad, who are convinced he’s more interested in chasing an adrenaline high than trying to keep them all alive. The Hurt Locker took home six Academy Awards in 2010, including Best Motion Picture and Best Director for helmer Kathryn Bigelow.
British comedian/author/activist Russell Brand is a love-him-or-hate-him personality on the best of days, but even if you have no patience for his politics, there’s no question that he’s got some valuable insights when it comes to addiction. Brand has talked extensively about his struggles with substance abuse—and the fact that he knows he could very easily slip back into it at any time, even after over a decade of sobriety. Brand explores society’s attitudes and approaches to the problems of substance abuse—and substance abusers—in a pair of BBC Three documentaries hitting Netflix in August. In End the Drugs War, Brand explores how various countries handle the problem and questions whether criminalization is the answer. In From Addiction to Recovery, Brand shines a light on his own troubled past, including his addiction to heroin and the death of his friend, performer Amy Winehouse.
Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a TV-obsessed woman with borderline personality disorder who spends most of her money on lottery tickets. Except she actually beats the odds and wins, netting an $86 million jackpot. She celebrates by moving into a casino hotel, but after she gets booted off the news right in the midst of delivering a speech she’d prepared—one that inexplicably includes mention of masturbation—Alice decides she wants her own show, so she can say whatever she wants to say. In addition to the always wonderful Wiig, Welcome to Me’s stellar cast includes Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Robbins, and Alan Tudyk.
Actor/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt has forged a career as one of the most interesting young performers of his generation in movies such as Brick, (500) Days of Summer, and Looper, but since 2005 his passion project has been the website/collaborative production company he founded with his brother, Dan.HitRECord on TV is the culmination of that work, a series that premiered on Pivotlast year and which compiles user-contributed short films and performances, with each episode’s content focused on a particular theme. The eight-episode first season includes explorations of fantasy, trash, space, games, money, patterns, and more. The show just aired its second season on Pivot last month, so expect it to show up on Netflix eventually. In the meantime, there’s plenty more to explore onthe HitRECord website.
9) Doctor Who: Season 8 (Aug. 8)
For the fourth time in Doctor Who’s “modern era,” a new actor stepped into the TARDIS and the iconic role of the nigh-immortal Time Lord. And new lead Peter Capaldi was a very different Doctor indeed than David Tennant or Matt Smith: darker, less given to whimsy, and at times much colder than his recent regenerations. This is a Doctor who describes his companion Clara as his “carer”—she cares so he doesn’t have to—and while he’s not nearly as callous as he pretends to be, Clara’s doubts as to whether she can trust the Twelfth Doctor underscore the entire season. Capaldi’s Doctor is set to return for a new season of adventures in September, so now’s the perfect time to jump aboard if you’ve ever been curious about what all the fuss is about. If nothing else, watch “Listen,” arguably one of the finest episodes of Doctor Who ever.
The talented Marion Cotillard landed a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance as Sandra, a worker at a solar-panel factory in Belgium. After a nervous breakdown forces her into a brief leave of absence, she returns to work to discover that she’s been rendered redundant: management is paying her co-workers a significant bonus to pick up a few extra hours so they don’t have to keep her on. With a family to care for and desperate not to lose her job, Sandra spends the weekend appealing to each of the 16 co-workers who hold her future in their hands. But she’s got a hard sell: Times are tough, and all of them could use that extra money. If the synopsis doesn’t win you over, listen to the Tomatoes: Two Days, One Night is rocking a damned impressive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97 percent Fresh. That’s even Fresher than Will Smith during the Bel-Air years.
Because one dynamite female lead performance deserves another, we recommend following up Two Days, One Night with Alex of Venice. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, probably best known as the crushworthy Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, stars as the Alex in question, a workaholic lawyer whose life is thrown for a loop after her stay-at-home husband bails on her. Now she must reinvent her life while caring for and reconnecting with both her young son and ailing father (Don Johnson). With the exception of interesting highlights such as Scott Pilgrim andDeath Proof, Winstead has usually been better than the material she’s been cast in, so it’s great to hear so many critics singling out her performance in Alex of Venice, with Variety calling her “extraordinary.”
We just recently broke down some of most interesting vampire movies currently available on Netflix and Hulu, and if Neil Jordan’s Byzantium had already been up, we definitely would have included it. Byzantium stars Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a mother and daughter pair of vampires who have been alive since the Napoleonic era. Byzantium unfolds both in modern day and through flashbacks, exploring how the two became immortal bloodsuckers, and their pariah status within the secretive echelons of the vampire elite (there’s always a vampire elite, isn’t there?). The flick got mixed reviews, currently sitting at 63 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, but critics praised its moody atmosphere, and frankly, I’d watch Ronan in damn near anything.
13) Narcos (Aug. 28)
Netflix has had a busy few months, introducing two new series in the form the sci-fi epic Sense8 and the Wet Hot American Summer prequel First Day of Camp, not to mention returning favorites Orange Is the New Black and BoJack Horseman. Now the streaming giant is wrapping up the summer with a bang, courtesy ofNarcos, a new crime drama centered around Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and law enforcement’s attempts to curb the flow of cocaine into the United States in the 1980s. Created by Chris Brancato (Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU), Narcos will trace the rise of the Medellin Cartel, an empire that eventually made Escobar one of the wealthiest criminals in history. Even better, the series is being directed by José Padilha, best known for the Elite Squad movies and the better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be RoboCop remake.
Stage magician James Randi has spent the last several decades using his knowledge of illusion and deception to debunk self-proclaimed psychics, faith healers, and other con artists who use their skills to prey on the emotionally vulnerable. An Honest Liar chronicles Randi’s long career as an icon of reason and skepticism, including his frequent appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Showand his crusading attempts to make life difficult for people like spoon-bending celebrity psychic Uri Geller. In addition to the main attraction of Randi himself, the filmmakers also interview luminaries from the worlds of magic, science, pop culture, and skepticism, including “Science Guy” Bill Nye, MythBuster Adam Savage, illusionists Penn & Teller, and rock legend Alice Cooper.
British TV helmer Andy Goddard (Torchwood) makes his feature directorial debut with Set Fire to the Stars, which stars co-writer Celyn Jones as legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. (One of Thomas’ best-known works was “Do not go gentle into that good night,” which featured prominently in Christopher Nolan’sInterstellar.) Elijah Wood co-stars as John Malcolm Brinnin, a meek poetry professor who gets the chance to host his literary hero, Thomas, during a weeklong visit to the States. Brinnin’s uptight nature clashes with Thomas’ heavy drinking and larger-than-life hedonism, and the trip soon becomes an object lesson in why it’s sometimes best not to meet your idols.
Netflix boasts a decent selection of anime, but in 2014 it expanded the variety of its Netflix Originals catalog with Knights of Sidonia, based on the manga series by Tsutomu Nihei. Knights is set in the year 3394, a millennium after the Earth was obliterated by a race of giant alien monsters and the remnants of mankind regrouped and fled, Battlestar Galactica–style. The Sidonia is the last-known surviving ship of this exodus, a massive vessel populated by over 500,000 people. Having grown to adulthood living in the bowels of the ship and training on a mech simulator, the heroic Nagate Tanikaze is perfectly suited to join the fight when the deadly Gauna creatures threaten his home once again.
Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a strong-willed cult member kidnapped and forced into a round of deprogramming at the behest of her desperate parents. Her guide back to “normality” is Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of mind control. Suffice to say, Claire isn’t giving up her convictions without a fight, and the power struggle between the two makesFaults both funny and ferocious. Faults premiered at South by Southwest in 2014 and balances dark humor and satire against more serious commentary about manipulation and brainwashing. Winstead in particular has been singled out for giving perhaps the best performance of her career thus far. It currently holds an 88 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Gareth Edwards’ understated creature flick Monsters posited a world where huge, tentacled alien beasts had overtaken much of Mexico, forcing the country into military quarantine. Monsters was a deliberately paced, ground-level look at fantastic events, even holding off the really good looks at the creatures until the film’s climax (a trick he repeated with Godzilla). This sequel runs counter to that philosophy in just about every way. Set 10 years after the first Monsters, The Dark Continent takes a more action-oriented approach that drops four soldier friends into a Middle East positively swarming with the alien creatures. So long, character work and nuance; hello, explosions and monster stampedes.
Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Ron Rash, Serena stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a pair of newlyweds running a timber company in Depression-era North Carolina. Anyone who saw Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry in Silver Linings Playbook would be excited to see the actors playing an on-screen couple again, but unfortunately the pair’s performances are one of the only things critics praised about Serena. It’s rocking a cringe-inducing 20 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment, so if you’re curious, watch it for Cooper and Lawrence and moderate your expectations appropriately. (Fun fact: Serenawas originally going to be directed by Darren Aronofsky and star Angelina Jolie.)
7) Creep (July 14)
The found-footage horror/comedy Creep stars co-writer director Patrick Brice as a videographer who answers a cryptic Craigslist ad from Josef (co-writer Mark Duplass), a terminally ill man who wants someone to film him in a series of videos for his unborn son. The situation soon takes a turn for the, well, creepy when it becomes clear that Josef may be… shall we say “less than stable.” Creep scared its way to a 91 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, earning positive reviews from outlets such as the Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire. Bonus points if you pretend Duplass is playing his character from The League the whole time.
Director Richard Stanley was fired by New Line a mere three days into filming his 1996 attempt to bring H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau to the big screen. Things didn’t get any better from there. John Frankenheimer stepped into the vacated director’s chair, but he faced a sea of troubles that included script problems, production delays, and a pair of uncooperative egos named Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. The end result is one of the worst movies ever made...which, thankfully, makes for a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary. In addition to revisiting the shitshow that was The Island of Dr. Moreau’s actual shoot, Lost Soul examines Stanley’s original vision for the film, including his plans for Bruce Willis to play the role that eventually went to Val Kilmer.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus tells the story of Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a respected anthropologist who is inflicted with a hunger for blood after an encounter with a cursed African artifact. Director Spike Lee actually turned to Kickstarter to fund Da Sweet Blood of Jesus—a first for Lee—and the movie was filmed in only 16 days.
Lee describes this particular “joint” as being about “Human beings who are addicted to blood. Funny, sexy and bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of Blacula).” It received a VOD release this past February, just in time for Valentine’s Day. And am I the only one disappointed that it isn’t a remake ofBlacula though?
Based on strange-than-fiction real-life events, Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, a woman in 1920s Los Angeles whose son vanishes. Her relief when the LAPD announces they have found him is soon dashed by the discovery that the kid they bring forward isn’t actually her boy—even if they keep insisting he is. Soon the scandal-plagued department is trying to shut her up and brush the case under the rug, but Collins never gives up hope or stops trying to find her son. Writer J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Netflix’s Sense8) spent a year researching the real-life Collins case, and even included newspaper clippings in copies of the script to remind people that this bleak and bizarre story was based on true events.
Easily the weirdest original show in Netflix’s stable, BoJack Horseman stars Will Arnett as the titular Horseman, a washed-up sitcom star in a world where humans share the planet with anthropomorphic animals who are apparently not very creative when it comes to choosing last names. BoJack is eager to try and rekindle his fame, just like any other has-been celebrity—horse-headed or neigh. In addition to Arnett, BoJack Horseman’s impressive voice cast includes Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Patton Oswalt, Stanley Tucci, J.K. Simmons, and Community’s Alison Brie as BoJack’s ghostwriter/love interest. Season 2 also adds Friends star Lisa Kudrow into the mix.
13) Tig (July 17)
On Aug. 3, 2012, comedian Tig Notaro walked on stage at Largo in Los Angeles and opened her set with these words: “Good evening, hello, I have cancer. How are you?” The crowd laughed, expecting a bit. Instead, Notaro delivered a set that has become justifiably legendary in the standup world, with the comic opening up about her diagnosis, only days before, of invasive stage II breast cancer. The documentary Tig explores Notaro’s fight against her illness, her reignited career in the wake of that unforgettable Largo set, and even her finding love in the wake of a dark and difficult time. On a related note, you should definitely listen to Tig’s bit about how she is cosmically bonded to former ’80s teen pop icon Taylor Dayne.
“Surrounded by the eccentric faculty of Truman High School, Mitch Carter wins the California Teacher of the Year award and immediately receives a tempting offer that may force him to leave his job.” Key and Peele’s Keegan-Michael Key co-stars as a character named Ronald Douche (pronounced “doo-shay”), so on the surface this flick could easily be a trainwreck. However, Teacher of the Year did well on the festival circuit, the reviews currently listed on Rotten Tomatoes are mostly positive, and the trailer actually looks like this one might be worth your time. Honestly, I’d check it out for Key’s presence alone, but throwing the Sklar Brothers into the mix just cements the deal.
Director Adam Wingard gave the world the outstanding 2011 slasher flick You’re Next. With 2014’s The Guest, Wingard reunited with You’re Next screenwriter Simon Barrett for a thriller about a family mourning the loss of their oldest son, Caleb, a soldier who died in Afghanistan. When a stranger named David shows up claiming to be a friend of their late son, the family embraces him and welcomes him into their home. David is polite, helpful, and seemingly a great guy… but events soon begin to suggest that he harbors dark secrets and a violent streak that could put the entire family in danger. (July 25 is a long way away, so we highly recommend checking out Wingard’s You’re Next in the meantime if you haven’t already.)
16) Comet (July 28)
I’m a sucker for Emmy Rossum, but ever since Tusk, I can’t see Justin Long without subconsciously superimposing the walrus mustache back onto his upper lip. That’s bound to interfere with my enjoyment of this high-concept romantic comedy/drama that explores a six-year star-crossed relationship in non-linear fashion. Writer/director Sam Esmail received a “story by” credit on the 2014 found-footage horror flick Mockingbird, and more recently he created the thriller series Mr. Robot for USA. If nothing else, the fact that this isn’t a guy I’d expect a rom-com from intrigues me, and Comet looks to be playing with stylistic and narrative flourishes that could be interesting. Plus, let’s be honest: I’ll follow Emmy anywhere.
Wet Hot American Summer was a flop when it was released in 2001, but it’s since become a cult classic thanks to a script that deftly skewers ’80s teen sex comedies and a dynamite ensemble cast that includes Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo,Elizabeth Banks, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Molly Shannon, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Poehler, to name just a few. A decade and a half later, Netflix is taking viewers back to Camp Firewood in this prequel series. And yes, you can be sure there will be plenty of jokes about the fact that the “teenage” cast is now several decades past their first pimple. First Day of Camp is set earlier in the same summer explored in the original movie, and includes appearances by Jon Hamm, Chris Pine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, Judah Friedlander, Michael Cera, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.