What To Stream is our weekly article that highlights some of the best new movies available from the various VOD services like iTunes and Amazon Video and also from the subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
We are still in the doldrums of winter, but here are some movie picks that might get you through a snowy and dreary afternoon. Because Arrival is now available to own through VOD, I'm also going to include on this list my other two favorite Denis Villeneuve films - Prisoners and Sicario.
I have a very soft spot in my dark heart for horror anthologies and I'm getting excited for the upcoming release of XX, a new anthology featuring new work from some of the best female horror directors. If you like anthology films you need to check out these titles that I will list below as examples of some of the best of the modern resurgence.
VOD (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video, VUDO, etc.)
Arrival - Not available for rent yet on VOD, Arrival may be well worthy of a purchase. Nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture, I think Arrival is a modern sci-fi classic. All three of us here at The Film Coterie have seen it and it passed the vote easily to become our newest TFC Recommends title. Aliens arrive and humanity races to translate their language and understand the purpose of their arrival. That description undersells the movie as there is a lot going on and a lot for you to discover. What I think I like best about this movie is that it doesn't feel like the studio meddled with the screenplay to dumb it down or to make it more appealing for the masses. This is a smart movie and it rewards the audience member who wishes to really sit and engage with it.
Captain Fantastic - This week only, Captain Fantastic is a $0.99 rental on iTunes. Another TFC Recommends title, this feel-good family drama features an Oscar-nominated performance by Viggo Mortensen as the patriarch of the family. A father raises his family in the woods and is forced to bring his kids into the modern world. This movie should be super cheesy and full of tropes, but somehow it manages to dodge just about all of them. One of my favorite movies of last year.
Manchester by the Sea is now available for purchase from iTunes and Amazon Video. So here comes the swing from heart-warming to soul-crushing. We have talked a lot about Manchester by the Sea recently (our full review is in Episode 03 of our podcast). It boasts a career-best performance from Casey Affleck as he plays a broken man who is suddenly awarded custody of his teenage nephew. This tale will tug on your heart strings as you watch Casey Affleck's character try to handle his current grief as well as the grief from a past incident that devastated his life. This movie will have you reflect on your own life a bit and give you a good reason to hug a loved one or maybe gain some perspective on why people sometimes act the way they do.
Prisoners - The first movie that I ever saw from Denis Villeneuve was Prisoners. The preview made it look a little bit like The Lovely Bones, but trust me when I tell you that it is a whole different beast. Two young girls go missing and the neighbors take it into their own hands to hunt down and interrogate the man they think is guilty. Prisoners is one of the best morality tales that I have seen in some time. The film will keep you guessing as the police continue their investigation and the neighbors conduct their own investigation, outside of the law. Unfortunately, it is only available for rental from iTunes right now but it is worth your hard-earned money.
The Handmaiden - Now we get into my one of my favorite territories of film - the weird. Chan-wook Park's (Old Boy, Stoker, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) The Handmaiden is a twice-told tale. What I mean by that is that we see the same events happen twice, but from two different perspectives. A young Korean thief is inserted into a wealthy Japanese heiress' household as a handmaiden. Her mission is to con the heiress into marrying a con man and then they can both run off with their new fortune. Things are not going to go that easy and it quickly becomes apparent that nobody is who they seem. Surprisingly funny and erotically-charged, this is a movie that I have a hard time comparing to anything else I've seen. Best seen with someone else so that you can both discuss the movie. The Handmaiden is available for rent from all the major VOD platforms.
Subscription Streaming (Netflix and Amazon Prime)
Sicario - And here's my other favorite Denis Villeneuve film. Sicario stars Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin and takes you to the front line of the war against the Mexican drug cartels. Emily Blunt plays a FBI investigator who gets sucked into a CIA operation spearheaded by Josh Brolin and a mysterious figure played by Del Toro. This operation is going to take them across the border and into Juarez, a city where no one is safe. Tense and thrilling, Sicario hardly lets up once the plot kicks into motion. A sequel, Soldado, is coming soon and will feature some of the same characters (I won't spoil who before you've seen Sicario). It is available to stream from Amazon Prime.
Southbound - This title officially kicks off my list of some of my favorite horror anthologies (that are available to stream). I saw Southbound at Fantastic Fest 2015 and it has stuck with me ever since. If you aren't familiar with the typical horror anthology framework, there is usually a connecting element between the stories or a wrap-around story that starts and ends the film. Southbound tells 5 tales that all take place on or around a stretch of lonely road in the desert. Weird floating monsters, cannibals, demons, this movie has it all. I think out of all of the anthology films, I like the connective tissue in Southbound the most because it eventually adds up to something bigger. This is a test for Matt since I don't think he reads this article, but I am going to assign this movie to him during Episode 05's movie homework. Southbound is available to stream from Amazon Prime
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie - See that big-eyed and lovable gargoyle in the image at the top of this article? That's from just one of the stories in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. In this anthology film, we are treated to a wrap-around that involves a young boy trapped in a cage while a suburban housewife is preparing to cook and eat him. Basically a modern Hansel trapped in the witch's kitchen. To stall her and work on his escape, the boy tells her three scary stories. We as the audience get treated to tales of terror involving a mummy, a cat from hell, and a promise to a gargoyle. A lot of lessons to be learned from this movie and that includes never break a promise you make to a gargoyle. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie can be streamed from Netflix.
V/H/S - Here is the film that kicked off the modern resurgence of the horror anthology. A festival hit, V/H/S features a wrap-around that involves a group of teens breaking into a creepy old house to steal a VHS tape. Of course they find that the house is full of creepy old VHS tapes and they begin to watch them, one by one... Each tape they pop in is a different short and scary tale. Featuring an extremely impressive collection of up-and-coming directors like Ti West (The Innkeepers, House of the Devil), Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest, and Blair Witch), Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies), and Radio Silence (V/H/S 2 and Southbound), this anthology makes for a very fun ride. As soon as it hit VOD, I actually had a party at my place to show this film to as many people as I could. It's a perfect party movie to enjoy with some friends, some pizza, and a few beers. V/H/S is available to stream from Netflix.
V/H/S 2 - A rare sequel that is as good or better than the first, V/H/S 2 features more foolish people breaking into the same creepy house and watching more creepy VHS tapes. Adam Wingard returns to direct another installment, but this time he is joined by Gareth Edwards (Rogue One, Godzilla, The Raid), Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), and Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun). This movie, just like its predecessor, is a total blast and best viewed loud and with a fun-loving crowd. Sprinkle a few screams and laughs into your evening with friends. There's actually a third movie in this franchise, V/H/S Viral, but you are best off just pretending that one doesn't exist. Not only is it the only bad entry, it actually killed off the series. V/H/S 2 is available to stream from Netflix.
So those are my picks! Thanks as always for reading and feel free to let me know what you watched this weekend. As long as Matt and Roger let me write these articles, you will continue to be inundated with my horror picks, but that's a good thing! Stay warm and until next time...