The start of the new month brings tons of classic movies and blockbusters to all the major streaming services, with plenty of horror and action and a couple of new Shudder and Netflix originals.
‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (HBO Max)
Upon its release in 1990, the great film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about Jacob’s Ladder: “a thoroughly painful and depressing experience — but, it must be said, one that has been powerfully written, directed and acted.” Perhaps one of the most dizzying and terrifying psychological horror movies ever made, Jacob’s Ladder follows a Vietnam veteran as his experiences in the war haunt him, and his trauma manifests itself as horrifying hallucinations and flashbacks.
The film is one that’ll stick in your head for days afterwards thanks to its jarring imagery. It’s nerve-wracking horror with an obvious socially conscious edge to it, and has gone on to inspire many other horror filmmakers and even video game designers. It stars Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Matt Craven, and Danny Aiello.
‘American Psycho’ (Hulu)
The film is a gruesome slasher that’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s off kilter tone and unhinged lead performance provide a good number of macabre laughs.
This is one of those movies that you’ve seen a thousand gifs from. Starring Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Vice, Ford v. Ferrari) in an electrifying performance, American Psycho is a dark satire about a deranged serial killer, Patrick Bateman. By day, Bateman is a typical New York stockbroker. But his true self is revealed to be a sadistic murderer who preys on sex workers, his fellow Wall Street colleagues, and even strangers.
The mere poster for Possessor is so disturbing that you can immediately imagine the type of film it is, which makes sense considering it’s the work of Brandon Cronenberg, son of gross-out body horror master David Cronenberg (Scanners, The Fly, A History of Violence). Like his father, Brandon is able to still make audiences squeamish and uncomfortable with genuinely ghastly visuals and an intense atmosphere.
Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), an elite, corporate assassin, takes control of other people’s bodies using brain-implant technology to execute high-profile targets. But Vos begins to lose her grip on who she really is, and begins to feel detached in her family life thanks to violent thoughts. Released just last year, the film received high praise from many critics for its gruesome and intoxicating style.
‘A Nightmare Wakes’ (Shudder)
Mary Shelley is credited with pioneering the horror and science fiction genres with her novel Frankenstein, which still inspires and gets retold to this day. A Nightmare Wakes follows the writer as she’s writing that particular masterpiece, before falling into an opium-fueled fever dream while also carrying on a torrid love affair with Percy Shelley (Giullian Yao Gioiello). As she writes, the characters of her novel come to life and begin to plague her relationship with Percy. Before long, she must choose between true love and her novel.
The psychological horror film promises to offer a glimpse into the literary icon’s raucous life. Alex Wilton Regan of video game voice acting notoriety will play the leading role.
‘Malcolm and Marie’ (Netflix)
Zendaya and John David Washington are two of the hottest actors currently on a meteoric rise in the industry, so a film starring the two of them was a no-brainer. Filmmaker Sam Levinson – who has collaborated with Zendaya already in his hit show Euphoria and directed 2018’s Assassination Nation – made headlines when his latest project, Malcolm & Marie, became the first feature film to be entirely written, financed and filmed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The film, presented in black and white, captures one eventful evening at the home of Malcolm (Washington) and his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya). The couple are returning from a movie premiere; Malcolm has just debuted his latest film and is anxiously awaiting responses from critics, but his ranting eventually leads to damning arguments between him and Marie, and their relationship is put to the test. It promises to be career-best performances from its stars while also laying bare the complexities and harsh truths of romantic relationships.
‘The Reckoning’ (Shudder)
The Reckoning is a period piece that follows Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk), a young widow haunted by the recent death of her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson). She’s accused of being a witch by her jealous landlord, Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington), after she rejects his unwanted advances. Grace must now endure physical persecution at the hands of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter Judge Moorcroft (Pertwee) and face her own inner demons as the Devil himself starts to work his way into her mind.
Pretty dour stuff, but what can you expect from director Neil Marshall – who helmed one of the most genuinely scary movies of all time, The Descent. Strap yourself in for punishment, hopefully the kind that brings the thrills just as much as the chills.
One of the most vital blockbuster filmmakers working today, Nolan has always managed to combine bombastic spectacle with complex ideas and deep philosophical contemplations. His 2010 sci-fi heist film Inception – paid for thanks to the success of his groundbreaking previous film, The Dark Knight – just might be the best iteration of his talents.
Inception is the story of Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a thief for hire who is among the few in the world with the means to access people’s dreams. Cobb wishes to return home to his family, but it seems impossible until he’s given an offer by a business by the name of Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe). If Cobb can successfully plant an idea into the mind of a business rival (Cillian Murphy) using his dream techniques, he promises to get Cobb home. The film has a star-studded cast that includes Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, and Marion Cottilard. Filled with weighty ideas and thrilling action and puzzles, Inception is one of those movies that reminds us of why we love to go to the theater in the first place.
‘The Omen & The Omen II’ (Hulu)
The Omen is one of the best horror films of the 70s, a time that saw the genre navigating its way through religious and spiritual fears. Following in the footsteps of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, filmmaker Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon) terrorized audiences with the tale of a couple who come to learn that their child may be the literal Antichrist.
The film produced several iconic and often quoted horror movie moments, and its legacy continues to this day. Its first sequel, Damien: Omen II, will also be available.
‘Only God Forgives’ (Hulu)
After teaming up for 2011’s brooding and visceral hit Drive, director Nicolas Winding Refn and renowned actor Ryan Gosling followed up with another neo-noir action flick, Only God Forgives. Bathed in the neon glow of Bangkok, the film is an exceptionally stylized and hyper violent piece of work that’s more focused on being a sensory experience than a linear narrative.
In Thailand, a drug trafficker’s (Gosling) icy mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) sends him on a mission to avenge his older brother, who was killed for murdering a sex worker. Buckle up. Light watching, this is not.
‘District 9’ (Hulu)
Inspired by events in apartheid era Cape Town, District 9 is the big-budget sci-fi film debut of South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp. The film takes place in a world where an alien spaceship appears over Johannesburg, and the government confines its inhabitants to an internment camp with horrendous conditions. One of the aliens, named Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope), attempts to escape the camp with his son and return home, and unwittingly recruits the help of a bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley).
The film is wildly imaginative and explores themes of xenophobia, discrimination, and segregation. It boasts thrilling action and superb special effects, and is the perfect example of a smart and exciting blockbuster.
‘Shutter Island’ (Netflix)
Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is the clearest evidence for the acclaimed director’s love for Alfred Hitchcock. Set on a remote spit of land out in the ocean that’s home to a psychiatric facility, it’s a neo-noir thriller that toys with the audience’s perceptions of what’s really going on and which characters you can trust. Its moments of psychological horror are bound to stick in your head.
When one of the facility’s patients goes missing, Deputy U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), is sent to investigate. Along with his partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), Teddy’s findings become gradually more disturbing and mysterious.
‘Ninja Assassin’ (Hulu)
Following the success of 2005’s V for Vendetta, director James McTeigue switched gears to pay homage to classic martial arts films with Ninja Assassin. The action thriller stars Korean pop star Rain in the lead role, accompanied by Naomie Harris and film legend Sho Kosugi.
Trained since childhood to be a lethal killer, Raizo (Rain) has since turned his back on the Ozunu clan that raised him and now seeks revenge for their heartless murders. Teaming up with an investigator named Mika (Harris), Raizo steadily butchers his enemies while inching ever closer to the long-awaited bloody reunion with his former master (Kosugi).
‘Beverly Hills Ninja’ (Netflix)
The last film starring legendary comedian Chris Farley to be released before his untimely death, Beverly Hills Ninja is the story of an orphan named Haru who is raised by a clan of ninjas. His first mission sends him to Beverly Hills to investigate a murder.
Director Dennis Dugan is most known for his work with Adam Sandler – including Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and Grown Ups – and those familiar with the kind of lowbrow slapstick antics of his films can expect the same here, but with Farley cranking it up to 11.
‘Man of Steel’ (HBO Max)
2013’s Man of Steel was the first time Superman had been back on the big screen in seven years, and successfully kicked off the DC Extended Universe. Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), the film was a bit of a darker and grittier take on the superhero’s origins, following in the footsteps of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy and skyrocketing the career of star Henry Cavill.
It’s the classic story of Clark Kent being raised on a small farm before growing up to become the legendary hero, and stopping the genocidal General Zod (Michael Shannon). Now would be a good time to catch up before Snyder’s Justice League hits HBO Max next month.
‘The Matrix Trilogy’ (HBO Max)
There’s movies before The Matrix, and then there’s movies after The Matrix. The groundbreaking franchise changed the film landscape forever with its reality-shattering plot and Eastern-inspired action sequences, which combined intricate wire fu with new computer technology.
The Keanu Reeves-led trilogy broke box office records and continues to inspire filmmakers to this day. It established the directing duo of the Wachowskis as incredible visionaries and pioneers of the science fiction genre. A fourth film, simply titled Matrix, will be released this December on HBO Max, making it the first addition to the franchise in over 18 years. The original cast will be returning.
‘Batman’ 1989-1997 (HBO Max)
DC’s initial run of a film series for the iconic superhero began in 1989 with Tim Burton’s Batman, which he then followed up with 1992’s Batman Returns. They were a game-changing pair of films for their darker mood and outstanding performances that included Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Burton’s unique visual style eventually gave way to the gaudier flair of Joel Schumacher’s later two films, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Things may have gotten much campier with those second batch of films, but together, the four movies are a look at the different ways Batman can be portrayed – a haunted loner seeking justice or a fun Saturday morning cartoon.
The ‘Saw’ Franchise (HBO Max)
The horrifically violent Saw franchise is coming to HBO Max this month, featuring the original 2004 film all the way up to the seventh entry in the series, Saw: The Final Chapter. All of these will be the director’s cut editions.
The story deals with serial killer John Kramer (Tobin Bell), who puts his victims through brutal physical and mental tests in order to punish them, usually for some wrongdoing they’ve committed. The franchise dominated the horror scene every year with consistent October releases, and ushered in the “torture porn” subgenre. The Final Chapter even features an appearance by Chester Bennington.
‘Space Sweepers’ (Netflix)
Space debris isn’t an issue you see brought up very often, but it is indeed a very real thing for space explorers. It’s mostly dangerous to satellites, which are often damaged or destroyed by the thousands of pieces of trash floating through orbit, and it’s a problem that’s tricky to solve. Space Sweepers is about a ragtag group of space junk collectors who fly aboard their ship The Victory. After successfully snatching a crashed space shuttle in their latest debris chase, Victory’s crew discovers a 7-year-old girl inside.
The film is being called the first Korean science fiction blockbuster, and by launching on Netflix, it’s likely hoping to become an international hit in the same vein as 2019’s The Wandering Earth.
‘Vampire’s Kiss’ (Shudder)
Speaking of cult films, you may have seen one or two clips from the 1989 black comedy Vampire’s Kiss thanks to it featuring an absolutely insane Nicolas Cage performance. The film tells the story of a mentally ill man whose condition turns even worse when he believes he’s been bitten by a vampires.
Is it so bad it’s good? Or is it just good? Either way, the film is a wildly off-the-rails and slightly unsettling ride where you’re sitting next to Nic Cage at his most wild. You won’t forget it.
‘Mars Attacks!’ (Hulu)
Tim Burton’s surreal homage to sci-fi B movies of the past has managed to endure the test of time despite its disappointing box office draw when it was released in 1996. Mars Attacks! is a schlocky and silly take on alien invasion movies that Burton has described as a kind of “Mad magazine version of Independence Day”.
Filled to the bring with absurdist humor and zany violence, Mars Attacks is a unique standout in Burton’s vast filmography. It has an absolutely stacked cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, and more.
‘Training Day’ (HBO Max)
Training Day earned legendary actor Denzel Washington his one and only Oscar for Best Actor, and his performance, as well as the film itself, has maintained a legacy in the realm of crime films.
The film follows two LAPD narcotics officers, played by Washington and Ethan Hawke, as they navigate the dangerous streets of Los Angeles over a single 12-hour period. Training Day has inspired the look and grittiness of every cop and crime thriller to come out since.
‘The Goonies’ (HBO Max)
The Goonies has left a sizable impact on pop culture and is still being quoted and alluded to even now, over 30 years later. It’s a classic family adventure about a group of kids attempting to save their home by following an old treasure map that will lead them to a centuries-old treasure.
The film is the combined efforts of Richard Donner, Chris Columbus, and Steven Spielberg, making it one of the quintessential movies of the 80s.
‘Phase IV’ (Hulu)
Desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on the inhabitants. It’s up to two scientists and a stray girl they rescue from the ants to destroy them. Look, I don’t know what else you need to hear, that’s more than enough to get me to watch this thing.
1974’s Phase IV may appear to be a silly horror B movie on the surface, but the singular vision of director Saul Bass turns it into an intense and haunting visual experience, far more than a film about super killer ants ought to be. It gained a cult following in the years following its release and inspired numerous other filmmakers.
‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ (HBO Max)
Based on the 1974 novel, this British Cold War spy thriller dominated the box office in the UK for weeks and received critical acclaim. The story follows the hunt for a double-agent within the highest ranks of the British secret service.
The star-studded cast includes Gary Oldman as George Smiley, with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik and Kathy Burke.
Before Jon Favreau changed the entertainment landscape with the first two Iron Man films, the hyper-realistic animation of The Jungle Book, and the groundbreaking techniques of The Mandalorian, he directed an adaptation of the children’s book Zathura. Loosely set in the same universe as Jumanji, the film follows two brothers, Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Ezra Jonah Bobo), who find a mysterious board game in their basement. It ends up transporting them and their house into the far reaches of space. Along with their older sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart) and an astronaut (Dax Shepard), they try to survive the game and return home.
Part family adventure and part space opera, Zathura is one of those rare films that’s just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Filled with smart humor, wonder, and genuine emotional weight, it’s a well-rounded journey that successfully reaches audiences of any age.
‘6 Star Trek Movies ’ (Hulu)
Hulu will be hosting a whopping six different Star Trek movies this February, starting with the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which stars the cast of the original series. Also available will be The Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock, The Final Frontier, The Undiscovered Country, and Insurrection.
The landmark franchise has continued to pull in legions of fans around the world. You can now relive the series’ first adventures on the big screen at home.
‘Aquaman’ (HBO Max)
Aquaman blew the doors off of Hollywood back in 2018, earning over one billion dollars at the box office. It also miraculously turned an old superhero – who up until then had become a joke – into the highest-earning DC character for a movie. Yes, it even surpassed The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
The film stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, who is next in line to become ruler of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis and has to stop his half-brother from conquering the surface world. It’s a suitable starring role for Momoa, and it’s exciting eye-popping visuals and action turn the whole thing into a blast.
‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (HBO Max)
Whether you were captivated or terrified of it as a child, 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has remained a staple of many childhoods. The film features an iconic performance from Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, the eccentric and mysterious chocolateer who holds a contest for five children to come visit his factory.
Relive the nightmarish tunnel sequence, keep tabs of how many memes you see, and wish that you could be there on that set to eat all that candy.
‘Kid Cosmic’ (Netflix)
Animation buff Craig McCracken has been one of the most original and sharp creatives in the business since the early 90s. As the creator of The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and the criminally underrated Wander Over Yonder – as well as extensively contributing to Dexter’s Laboratory – he’s established himself as a vital piece of animation history.
His latest show for Netflix, titled Kid Cosmic, is a return to the superhero genre for him, as well his first series to be in a serialized format. The cast includes notable voice actors Tom Kenny, Amanda C. Miller, Fred Tatasciore, and Keith Ferguson.
CONTINUED WEEKLY EPISODES:
Not only is WandaVision the first Disney+ series from Marvel Studios, but it’s the first new piece of Marvel Studios content in over a year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic derailing their movie release plans. That’s a lot to live up to, and WandaVision takes a big gamble by not being your typical superhero entertainment. Instead, it’s a homage to classic sitcoms of the 50’s onward, filmed in front of a live studio audience and all.
The gamble pays off. WandaVision is funny and charming, and its two leads, Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen, hilariously commit to the bit. But there’s a bit of mystery involved as well, and for those familiar with Wanda’s powers, you’ll know that not everything is as it seems. The first five episodes of the series are streaming now, with a new one arriving each week.
SPOILERS in the below Mid-Season Trailer
‘The Stand’ (CBS All Access)
Clocking in at over one thousand pages, Stephen King’s dark fantasy epic The Stand has been frustrating creatives with how to adapt it to the screen nearly as long as it’s been inspiring them to attempt it in the first place. Filmmaker Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars, The New Mutants) is the latest to take a crack at it, separating the book into a nine episode miniseries for CBS All Access.
The Stand follows the survivors of a devastating plague that brings an end to civilization as we know it. Spread out around the remains of the U.S., they begin to band together in two distinct locations: Boulder, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada. As one settlement attempts to rebuild a society better than before, the other gives into the nihilistic, violent, and selfish tendencies of human nature, and it eventually leads to conflict. The miniseries has a stacked cast that includes Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden, Odessa Young, Owen Teague, Amber Heard, Jovan Adepo, Henry Zaga, Gordon Comier, and Alexander Skarsgård. The first eight episodes are now streaming, followed by the finale next week.
COMING THIS WEEK:
Check back next week for full write-ups.
Netflix – ‘War Dogs’. ‘Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’, ‘Middle of Nowhere’, ‘Red Dot’
Hulu – ‘2067’, ‘You’re Next’
Shudder – ‘Night Tide’, ‘Whispering Corridors Trilogy’, ‘Carmilla’, ‘After Midnight’
HBO Max – ‘Irresistible’, ‘We Bare Bears: The Movie’, ‘Dunkirk’, ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’
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