5 Best New Movies on Amazon Prime
We’re still a good two weeks and change away from The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the official start of the summer blockbuster season, if you can believe that. You might therefore want to take a deep breath and watch some solid programming in the comfort of your own home before we all descend into the cinematic chaos of the summer time. Here are our picks for some the best recently added films you can watch on Amazon Prime right now.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
David Lean’s timeless epic about a young British intelligence officer, who is assigned to the Sahara desert in order to gather intel on the Turks in WWI, is actually intended for the big screen—and we mean BIG, it was famously shot in 70mm—but is still a marvel even watching it on your flatscreen. It made a star out of Peter O’Toole and his piercing eyes, while establishing benchmarks for Alec Guiness and Anthony Quinn. In a field of would-be spectacles of the era, each claiming to be the biggest and best ever made (see: Cleopatra, Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments), Lawrence towers above the pack.
Believe me when I tell you I long resisted watching this film during its initial release. I’m not sure why—possibly the tagline “Get a Nightlife” in combination with the movie poster that posed a slick-looking Vince Vaughn proffering a martini in our direction—but when I finally saw it more than a year after it came out I came away mightily impressed. Here was Jon Favreau, a complete unknown, starring with a bunch of his friends (including, of course, Vaughn, but also future big-timers Rob Livingston and Heather Graham) in a film he wrote seemingly on the fly, and it was very nearly perfect. I haven’t much liked all of Favreau’s post-Swingers and Made career choices (I found Chef far too cloying), but Swingers is still a hell of a lot of fun, and neatly captures a point in time in the mid-’90s where everything was hepcat and zoot-suited.
Starred Up (2014)
The film, about an incorrigible young Brit sent to the same prison his father’s been incarcerated in for years, is a decent enough prison flick in its own right, but where the film really takes off is in the performance of its lead, Jack O’Connell, who is absolutely mesmerizing. It wasn’t hard to imagine big things happening for O’Connell upon seeing this film at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and even if Angelina Jolie’s widely panned Unbreakable wasn’t quite the coming-out party everyone was hoping for, it still situates the young Englishman on the brink of stardom.
First, Jason Concepcion over at Grantland wrote a glowing review then Mike D’Angelo over at thedissolve.com fell ass-over-teakettle for it. The film, which concerns a suburban dinner party taking place during the bizarre events of a comet streaking through the sky, is quirky, a bit ethereal, and demands your most focused attention, but for those who enjoy such mindgames coupled with open-interpretive narratives will find much to admire.
We close this list with an even stranger and more baffling film, but one that will simmer in your subconscious for days after seeing it. Based on the José Saramago novel The Double (which, in turn, is loosely based on the Dostoyevsky novella of the same name), Denis Villenueve’s peculiar puzzle stars Jake Gyllenhaal, as a depressed history professor who is convinced he sees a doppelgänger of himself in a small role in a relatively cheesy movie. The more he investigates into the other man’s life, the more twisty and mysterious the entire film becomes. Still, while you might not follow everything that happens initially, there’s a strong sense that the film makes its own kind of sense (as breathlessly explained in this here video (which you should absolutely not even think about watching until you’ve seen the film itself). Plus, it offers the more surprising—and, dare I say—shocking endings of any film I saw last year.
Piers Marchant is a film critic and writer based in Philly. Find more confounding amusements and diversions at his blog, Smell of Success, or read his further 142-character rants and ravings at @kafkaesque83.