We're in the middle of winter and maybe you just want to stay in and watch a movie or two this weekend. Nothing wrong with that! Here are a few of my picks from the newer titles available on these various streaming sources.
VOD (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video, VUDO, etc.)
Ouija: The Origin of Evil (2016) - Ok, I'm as shocked as the rest of you that this film turned out well. It is vastly superior to the first entry and you definitely don't need to bother to watch it before this film. This is a PG-13 horror movie and a good title to introduce to kids who you think are old enough to handle it (or your scaredy-cat adult friends). It's a halloween Hallmark card of a movie, short, sweet, and gets you in the spirit. Lulu Wilson gives one of the best child actor performances in a horror movie that I've seen in quite some time.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) - For my second horror pick of the weekend, I'm going with this little gem that I saw at Fantastic Fest. From the director of Troll Hunter, we get a spooky movie set in a morgue. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are a father and son pair of morticians who get called into work on a dark and stormy night. They must conduct an autopsy on a Jane Doe that does not appear to have any apparent cause of death. As they continue to operate and investigate, their evening gets worse and worse (I'll leave it at that). This is a much more intense flick than Ouija and it very nearly made my top 10 of the year, but it doesn't quite stick the landing. Overall, a very entertaining and frightening film. My co-host Roger would definitely have to watch this in the middle of the day with all the lights on in his house.
Hell or High Water (2016) - Alright, alright, I'll stop with the horror picks. Hell or High Water is a legitimately great heist movie with stellar performances from Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. One of the best screenplays in the heist genre in ages, I don't think there's really a wasted scene or beat in this film. Two brothers (Pine and Foster) start robbing banks to save the family ranch from foreclosure. Jeff Bridges plays the marshal who is closing the net around their criminal endeavors. This film just barely missed my Top Ten list.
Don't Think Twice (2016) - I really don't care for improv comedy. That did not stop me from loving this movie about an improv comedy troupe and their struggles to move up in the world. This is the second feature film from comedian Mike Birbiglia and I think we have all just witnessed the arrival of the next great comedic director. Don't Think Twice is funny, sweet, sad, and above all it feels authentic to that particular comedic scene in New York. The cast of recognizable comedians do a good job of sharing the workload in this movie.
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) - So, I'm going to go ahead and break my rule about only listing recent movies. Chances are that you might be tempted to go see La La Land due to the buzz, great reviews, and all around good karma surrounding that film (and you totally should, it was my #1 movie of 2016). Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the all-time favorite film of La La Land director Damien Chazelle and you can clearly some of its influence in the cinematic fabric of La La Land. So I finally watched Umbrellas this year and I was blown away by it. It is a musical without a single song or dance number, but that music.... That haunting song that gets louder each time it's played (or maybe it just seems that way)... This is a heartbreaking film and it seems like a monumental piece of the DNA of modern musicals. It is the story of a mechanic and a shopgirl (the lovely Catherine Deneuve) falling in love. Times are good until the mechanic is drafted and has to leave for the war and the young shopgirl starts being wooed by a handsome and wealthy jeweler who can help save her mom's umbrella store. If you fancy yourself a musical lover and you haven't seen Umbrellas of Cherbourg, you need to correct that oversight immediately. I'd love to see more people talking about this movie, so out of all the movies I'm listing today, this is the one that I'm most interested in YOUR take on the film. Feel free to comment / tweet etc about the movie and tell me how much you loved the film (there's really no other outcome).
Subscription Streaming (Netflix and Amazon Prime)
Green Room (2016) - Amazon Prime - Another great film from Jeremy Saulnier. Green Room is about a punk band having a very night at a skinhead bar run by an evil Patrick Stewart. The band witnesses a murder and gets locked into the green room while the skinheads figure out what to do with them. Lots of bad things happen very quickly and this movie ratchets up the tension. It's also one of those films where no one is safe and that definitely ups the danger levels for the main cast. One of the best feel-bad movies of the past year.
It Follows (2016) - Netflix - OMG. I love this film. It Follows made a huge splash in the horror world when it hit the festival circuit. This wholly original tale of terror involves a force that is always walking towards you if you are the target. It doesn't stop to sleep, it doesn't stop to get Starbucks, it never ever stops walking. And if you are the target it seeks, it can look like anybody - a friend, a stranger, etc, but nobody else can see it but you. You don't have to stay the target, you can pass it on to somebody else through sex, but there's a catch.... there's always a catch... If that person is killed, it will then go after the previous person and so on and so forth, right back down the list. So theoretically, if you did pass it on, you might never know when or if it will be coming for you again. Did I mention that the movie is also sort of set in a strange alternate universe where it's hard to distinguish what decade it is, there's still live musical accompaniment in movie theaters and people have weird clamshell kindle things? For a lot of people, this is a pretty scary movie. I know some individuals who were fairly wigged out after seeing it. If you do check out It Follows, there is so much interesting commentary and theories on the film out there that I implore you to read as much as you can. I, myself, enjoy and subscribe to the theories about the movie's themes of moving from childhood to adulthood.
Sing Street (2016) - Netflix - Out of all the movies I'm listing today, this is the feel-good title of the bunch. Sing Street is the story about a boy who forms a band to get the girl of his dreams. Set in Dublin in the mid-80's and featuring a soundtrack split between original music and some old favorites from Duran Duran and The Cure, this is a nice throwback film to the new wave era. From John Carney, who also brought us Once and Begin Again, Sing Street is definitely worth checking out whenever you have a spare 105 minutes.
The Lobster (2016) - Amazon Prime - The Lobster is a strange film. Set in a world where single people are carted off to a quasi-resort where they must form a new relationship with another individual or be turned into the animal of their choice. Colin Farrell is the protagonist of this story and he wishes to be turned into a lobster (hence the title) if he can't enter into a new relationship. The movie is fun and quirky and I can't help but think writer / director Yorgos Lanthimos was in a peculiar place in his life when he wrote this film. The movie struggles and eventually loses its way in the third act, but it's still a unique and enjoyable sit. Colin Farrell hasn't been this good since In Bruges.
Man vs Snake (2016) - Netflix - Man vs Snake is a documentary and a perfect compliment to The King of Kong. This film focuses on a not so popular old arcade title called Nibbler and the two men who have battled for years to have the high score. The real trick to conquering the high score in Nibbler is to have the best endurance as you will have to play at least 48 straight hours to approach the high score. The film treats its subject matter like a sporting event by putting its spotlight on the preparation of these two guys as they get ready to go for the record live at a video game convention. If you see Man vs Snake and like it, well then you need to immediately check out King of Kong, if you haven't already.