Now Stream This: 'The Mitchells vs. The Machines', 'Tenet', 'Saint Maud', 'Crimson Peak', 'Twister', 'Synchronic', 'Wolf', and More

(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)

The Mitchells vs The Machines
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2021

Genre: Animated Comedy

Director: Mike Rianda

Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett

This animated feature is bound to end up being one of the best films of 2021. A funny, inventive, sweet blend of comedy, sci-fi, and family bonding, The Mitchells vs. The Machines drops the awkward-but-loving family the Mitchells in the midst of a robot apocalypse. Budding film student Katie (Abbi Jacobson) is ready to escape to college, and her tech-hating father (Danny McBride). But dad Rick wants to spend some quality family time with Katie before she goes, so he cancels her plane tickets and decides to take her to college via a family road trip. Katie’s mom Linda (Maya Rudolph), brother Aaron (Mike Rianda), and dog Monchi come along. Katie is mortified at first, but starts to slowly get into the trip. And then all hell breaks loose when a robot uprising breaks out. With seemingly all of humanity captured by robots and in danger of being blasted into space, it’s up to the Mitchells to save the world, but first they’ll have to put aside their differences to work together. Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe’s script is wickedly clever and full of great set-ups that lead to fantastic pay-offs. On top of that, the animation style here is fantastic, blending digital and hand-drawn animation to create a unique look that stands apart from most modern animated films. The minute this is over you’re going to want to watch it again.

For fans of: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Furbies.

 

Tenet
Now Streaming on HBO Max

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Action Sci-Fi

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh

Tenet is not one of Christopher Nolan‘s best films, but it’s far better than its reputation suggests. It’s a weird, somewhat cold thriller about time travel, and it features some of the most technically stunning stuff Nolan has ever done. The plot, such as it is, involves a Protraganist (John David Washington) trying to prevent the apocalypse. That involves stopping an evil Russian billionaire (Kenneth Branagh) and teaming up with a charming rogue, played by Robert Pattinson. The exquisite and very tall Elizabeth Debicki is on hand, too, to tower over everyone as Branagh’s long-suffering wife. Nolan clearly doesn’t care much about his characters here – they’re simply devices he uses to stage big, strange set-pieces. But while the characterizations are weak on page, there’s a charm in watching Washington and Pattinson just hang out and deal with time travel stuff. Nolan has done better films, and he’ll probably do better films after this. But Tenet still rocks.

For fans of: InceptionDéjà Vu, temporal pincer movements.

 

Saint Maud
Now Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Horror

Director: Rose Glass

Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle

Rose Glass‘s deeply disturbing religious horror movie features an absolutely incredible performance from Morfydd Clark, who plays hospice nurse Maud, who believes she’s been sent by God to take care of her latest patient, played by Jennifer Ehle. Maud seems perfectly fine at first, albeit very religious. But as Saint Maud progresses, we begin to realize there’s something very wrong here. And Maud has a past that hints at something disturbing. Religious mania sets in, and things grow increasingly disturbing and downright horrifying. It all culminates in a finale that will leave you shocked and shaken.

For fans of: The WitchThe Lodge,

 

Crimson Peak
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2015

Genre: Gothic Romance

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver

Guillermo del Toro‘s Crimson Peak underperformed at the box office, primarily because the studio seemingly didn’t know how to sell it. It’s a pity, but box office does not determine quality, and Crimson Peak is one of del Toro’s best films. A lush, gothic, creepy story of love and death, the story introduces us to Edith (Mia Wasikowska), an American heiress who would like to become a novelist. But Edith is soon swept off her feet by Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) an English baronet who travels with his mysterious sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). After a tragedy, Edith and Thomas end up married and return to England, and Thomas and Lucille’s huge, crumbling manor. The house is, of course, haunted, and Edith is in danger. Full of gorgeous production design, gothic romance, and scary ghost, Crimson Peak is a sumptuous feast of a film. And Chastain is particularly delightful as the wicked sister who is always watching.

For fans of: Bram Stoker’s DraculaThe Innocents, haunted mansions.

 

Synchronic
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery

Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead are two of the most interesting filmmakers working right now, crafting unique genre pictures like Resolution and SpringSynchronic is their most ambitious movie yet, a strange, trippy sci-fi mystery that goes to more than a few unexpected places. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play a pair of paramedics in New Orleans who keep getting called in to help people who are overdosing on a mysterious new drug. The designer drug somehow alters the pineal gland’s perception of time, which leads to…well, time travel. It’s strange as hell, and Benson and Moorehead keep things deliberately confusing – at times too confusing. And yet they’ve also created a wholly unique film that feels like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

For fans of: Altered StatesThe Endless, New Orleans.

 

Twister
Now Streaming on HBO Max

Release Date: 1996

Genre: Action-Adventure

Director: Jan de Bont

Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes

No one would ever accuse Twister of having a great script. But Jan de Bont‘s non-stop thrill ride is still a total blast and gets by on the charisma of its stars and the strength of its special effects. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are storm chasers going through a divorce, but before the divorce papers can be signed, the pair end up on one last run together. As bad luck (or maybe good luck?) would have it, this happens at a time when one deadly tornado after another keeps touching down around them. Hunt and Paxton want to launch a device into a tornado in order to help develop a system that better predicts them (the science is wonky; don’t worry about it), but it won’t be easy. The special effects were cutting edge back in the ’90s, and they actually hold up nicely. Even better, though, is the cast, particularly Paxton, who is 100% believable as a guy who is obsessed with tornados. A young Philip Seymour Hoffman is also a hoot as one of the members of the storm chasing team.

For fans of: SpeedThe Perfect Storm, The Suck Zone.

 

Reign of Fire
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2002

Genre: Sci-Fi (and fantasy, I guess? Because of dragons?)

Director: Rob Bowman

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale,  Izabella Scorupco, Gerard Butler

Imagine, dragons! Reign of Fire is an absolutely ridiculous action flick in which the apocalypse is caused by – you guessed it – dragons. Set in the futuristic year 2020 (oh), Reign of Fire sees most of humanity wiped out by fire-breathing dragons. Christian Bale plays one of the surviving humans who lives with a community of survivors who are in danger of dying of starvation. Enter Matthew McConaughey, playing a gung-ho dragon hunter who thinks he knows a way to get rid of the dragons once and for all, or die trying. It’s gloriously stupid, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Think of this as kind of like a Mad Max movie crossed with Game of Thrones.

For fans of: Edge of TomorrowDragonHeart, pre-McConaughissance Matthew McConaughey still having a good time.

 

The Manchurian Candidate
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2004

Genre: Political Thriller

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Kimberly Elise, Jeffrey Wright, Ted Levine, Bruno Ganz, Vera Farmiga

Jonathan Demme‘s remake of The Manchurian Candidate has aged exceedingly well, although that might not be such a good thing. It’s a disturbing, cynical film about the horrors and corruption of the American political system. A mysterious, all-powerful company abducted a platoon of soldiers during the 1991 Gulf War and brainwashed them with the goal of putting one of the soldiers, Raymond Prentiss Shaw (Liev Schreiber) in the White House one day. But many of the soldiers have come back from the war confused and haunted, suffering from nightmares in which they remember flashes of what really happened to them. One of those soldiers is played by Denzel Washington, who tries to uncover the truth about what’s going on here. Meanwhile, Shaw’s mother, a manipulative politician played with wicked glee by Meryl Streep, is working to make sure nothing stops her son from becoming President of the United States.

For fans of: The Parallax ViewEnemy of the State, people looking directly into the camera.

 

Bound
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

Release Date: 1996

Genre: A Damn Sexy Thriller

Director: The Wachowskis

Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano

Before The Matrix, the Wachowskis made Bound, a super sexy, super clever neo-noir that’s tense, funny, and did I mention sexy? Gina Gershon is an ex-con who lands a job as a janitor at an apartment building. There, she catches the eye of Jennifer Tilly, the girlfriend of a gangster, played by Joe Pantoliano. The two women fall into an affair, and then comes a scheme: they’ll rip off the mob and run away together. Sounds crazy and dangerous, right? It is, and despite a well-laid plan, everything that can go wrong does, and Gershon and Tilly need to think fast before they end up dead.

For fans of: Sexy stuff.

 

Wolf
Now Streaming on the Criterion Channel

Release Date: 1994

Genre: Horror…sort of?

Director: Mike Nichols

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce, Om Puri

Mike Nichols didn’t seem like the type of filmmaker to make a werewolf movie, but that’s exactly what he did in 1994 with Wolf. Nichols was clearly going for something more high-brow here, since the movie is mostly about a man’s mid-life crisis that turns into a werewolf movie. But studio reshoots watered things down, and by all accounts, Nichols never quite got the hang of the material. Still, Wolf is a fascinating, unconventional werewolf flick. Jack Nicholson plays an aging book editor who seems to sleepwalk through life. His wife is cheating on him and he’s in danger of losing his job. And then he gets bit by a wolf. But the wolf was no ordinary wolf, and soon – after sleeping for a full day – Nicholson is turning into a horny wolfman. Part of his newfound lycanthropy includes falling into the sack with his boss’s daughter, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. And when he’s not doing that, he’s ripping people apart and dealing with James Spader, his work rival who also turns into a werewolf, leading to a big werewolf smackdown.

For fans of: Jack Nicholson taking long naps.

 

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