Mayor Nutter has suggested treating this weekend—when the Pope and an estimated 1 to 2 million of his most devoted followers (and almost just as many Port a Potties) descend onto Philly—like a winter storm. That means one thing: Start using the words “hunker” and “down” in the same sentence and cozy up on the couch with a few good flicks. To help you decide what to watch, I present you five of my favorite new entries to hit Netflix instant streaming this month.
Gore Vidal (facing) and William Buckley in Best of Enemies.
Best of Enemies is a documentary celebrating the fabulous enmity and erudite verbal brawling between liberal author Gore Vidal, and his arch-nemesis, conservative scholar and writer William F. Buckley Jr., on a series of ABC news specials during the 1968 political conventions. Co-directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom) came across the unedited footage back in 2012 and knew instantly they wanted to make a movie out of it.
To be fair, there were back-to-school sales as early as June (which, if I were a kid, I would be enormously offended by), but now we’re truly coming into the homestretch. Summer’s winding down folks, time to flip up the dark glasses and peer into the frigid grayness to come off in the far distance. I mean, not to bum you out or anything, but you have a month left of low-key, relaxed-office, quasi-vacation time left before the grind begins anew and with depressing vigor. Maybe it’s a good time to stock up on some fine visual entertainment before the onslaught, hey? Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming this month.
Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation.
Rebecca Ferguson, the lovely 31-year-old Swiss ingénue who stars alongside Tom Cruise in the latest Mission: Impossible film, Rogue Nation, doesn’t scare easily. On her first full day on set, in location in Vienna, she had to jump off a large building while being wrapped around Mr. Cruise, facing her fear of heights, and her fear of accidentally crushing the ribcage of the most famous movie star in the world. The espionage thriller finds her jetting around on a high-octane motorcycle in Morocco, holding her breath underwater for minutes at a time in order to save Cruise’s character from an underwater centrifugal chamber, and beating the living hell out of a bunch of turned-agent thugs all over the world. In Philly to promote the film, she happily plopped down on a couch in a posh suite at the Ritz Carlton, and held forth on the responsibility she felt toward the franchise, doing her own stunt work while suffering from vertigo, and what it was like to work with the aforementioned Mr. Cruise.
This is officially the dead zone for most sports fans. Unless, you know, you are seriously in to golf or the WNBA, you find yourself with all sorts of extra time sitting in front of a TV and not knowing what to do with yourself. Might we suggest some streaming-film entertainment on the world’s most comprehensive cinematic streaming site? Splendid, let’s get to it, then. Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming in July.
An Honest Liar (2014)
The Amazing Randi (James Randi) is a magician of some professional renown, a title he is happy to embrace, now entering into old age. He has used slight-of-hand and misdirection to produce fantastic illusions throughout his career. Where he directs his ire is toward members of the guild who suggest what they are doing is actual conjuring, be it seances with the dead or bending spoons with their minds. To them, Randi is their worst nightmare: A professional skeptic with the trained eye and the skills to debunk the nonsense they’re pitching to a gullible public. A fascinating doc.
As our biggest pre-summer TV series have begun to wind down (au revoir, Mad Men; see you soon, Game of Thrones), our attention can now be consumed by some new narratives. Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting new offerings from Netflix streaming this month.
I’m hardly what you would call a John Wayne devotee, but William Wellman’s high-altitude thriller is sharp, and well-constructed. Wayne plays a burned-out co-pilot of a trans-Pacific flight who suddenly has to take over the plane and land it safely when his pilot loses it. If the plot sounds vaguely familiar, you have to imagine it was one of the many inspirations for the ZAZ boys when they made the ribald Airplane! a couple decades later.
Chris Pratt in Jurassic World, hitting theaters June 12th.
Sure, technically the 2015 Summer Blockbuster season started May 1st, but we figured we’d wait for the dust to clear somewhat before choosing the films being released over the next three months we’re actually interested to see. As always, there’s an enormous amount of glop to wade through, but if you can make your way through the swampland of crappy action movies, burnt buddy pictures, and relentlessly puerile comedies, there could be some real glories standing there on the slightly higher ground.
We’d love to rhapsodize something sweet and meaningful about spring, one of the all-time best seasons, but frankly, we’re sneezing and coughing so much from the pollen, we simply don’t have the strength. In any event, here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming this month—all of which are delightfully allergy free.
The Last Waltz (1978) Martin Scorsese’s indelible concert film about The Band, performing their last ever show in 1976 is both an engrossing portrait of a group of musicians who worked together for 16 years, and a perfect time capsule of the era of Big Rock. Scorsese’s camera captures the magic of their on-stage performance—one that includes guest spots including everyone from Eric Clapton and Neil Young to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris—but also gathers a sense of the off-stage interaction of the band and what made them tick. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of their music, the film is a fascinating take on the delicate psyche of an artistic group collective—and its inevitable dissolution.
When approaching one of these glitzy PR gimmicks, best to go with an open mind. They are there to create synergistic buzz for their product, of course, offering you a list of preferred hashtags (#insidious, unsurprisingly, for one) should you find yourself wanting to, you know, engage your social media engines in the wake of the experience. But, as such, they are also there to blow your mind a little bit, just enough so that you’ll be sure to breathlessly tweet about the horrifying ordeal and make other folks in your network curious enough to check it out for themselves.
As a screenwriter, Alex Garland has achieved his greatest success working alongside director Danny Boyle in such notable sci-fi works as The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine. For his directorial feature debut, the 45-year-old native of London chose to make another one of his scripts, the complex and riveting sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, which has earned him high-praise and fawning early reviews. The film concerns a half-mad billionaire tech genius (played by Oscar Isaac), who brings one of his star programmer employees (Domhnall Gleeson) out to his massive, remote laboratory somewhere in the Pacific NW in order to test his latest creation: a stunning, robotic AI (Alicia Vikander), as beautiful as she is intelligent. As the trio spend time with one another it becomes clear the tension between the creator and his invention is far more serious — and dangerous — than either lets on at first.
In town to promote the film, the director generously held forth about his body of work, the first film he ever adored, and his fixation with Formula 1 cars.