Now Stream This: 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things', 'The Way Back', 'The Devil All the TIme', 'Defending Your Life', 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.)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Uh…

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Cast: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, David Thewlis

Charlie Kaufman‘s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is weird. That probably goes without saying at this point, since everything Kaufman does is a little weird. But it’s more than that – it’s a melancholy, beautiful experience that is one of the year’s best films. Jessie Buckley, in yet another star-making performance (how many of those is she going to have before she’s a full-blown star?) plays a young woman on a road trip with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons). They’re off to meet the boyfriend’s parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis), and for the entire trip, the woman’s internal monologue suggests that things aren’t what they seem – and that’s underscored when they finally show up at the parent’s farmhouse, where time doesn’t move in a normal fashion. The end results are haunting, funny, creepy, and wholly unique.

For fans of: Synecdoche, New YorkThe Invitation, getting ice cream in a blizzard.

 

The Way Back
Now Streaming on HBO Max

Release Date: 2020

Genre: SportsDrama

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Cast: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar

Yes, The Way Back is pretty predictable, especially if you’ve seen any other “troubled coach helps troubled sports team achieve greatness” movie. But Ben Affleck‘s performance as a drunken high school basketball coach is so honest, and clearly so personal – Affleck has struggled with alcoholism – that it elevates the film into something special. A mess of a man, Affleck’s character is recruited to coach the basketball team at the high school he used to attend. He rejects the idea at first, but eventually comes around. And wouldn’t ya know, he reaches those kids! But of course, his own troubles keep getting in the way. Again: there’s nothing here you haven’t seen already. But The Way Back is a handsomely made film that features a great lead performance, and sometimes, that’s enough.

For fans of: HoosiersMiracle, watching Ben Affleck drink lots and lots of beer.

 

The Devil All the Time
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Psychological Drama

Director: Antonio Campos

Cast: Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson

Antonio Campos‘ sprawling, star-studded Southern gothic (or Midwestern gothic, as the filmmaker calls it) is definitely not for everyone. It’s a bleak, brutal movie, and that will likely turn some off. But there’s a darkly comedic streak through the whole thing, underlined by a cheeky narration that guides us from one character to the next. The story follows a group of morally compromised characters as they drift about, bumping into each other, and sometimes killing each other. Religion is the throughline tying it all together.

For fans of: Killer JoeBarry Lyndon, Robert Pattinson doing a goofy accent.

 

King of New York
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 1990

Genre: Crime Drama

Director: Abel Ferrara

Cast: Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Victor Argo, Giancarlo Esposito

Abel Ferrara‘s masterpiece, King of New York stars Christopher Walken as a drug kingpin who gets out of jail and finds the Big Apple to be much changed since he went away. Brutal, stylish, and never predictable, King of New York boasts one of Walken’s best performances as he plays his character, Frank White, as a murderous psycho who also wants to give back to the community, which is easier said than done.

For fans of: New Jack CityState of Grace, Steve Buscemi playing a character named Test Tube.

 

A Perfect Murder
Now Streaming on Hulu

Release Date: 1998

Genre: Thriller

Director: Andrew Davis

Cast: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen

It’s never a wise move to remake Hitchcock, but Andrew Davis went for it with A Perfect Murder. A loose remake of Dial M For Murder, this is one of those slick, competent ’90s thrillers that was made simply to entertain. There’s nothing loftier here, and that’s fine! We need more stuff like that. Or at least more stuff that embraces that approach. Here, Gwyneth Paltrow is a wealthy woman cheating on her much older husband, Michael Douglas, with a younger artist, Viggo Mortensen. Little does she know that Douglas has caught on to her infidelity. He’s also caught on to the fact that Mortensen’s character isn’t really who he says he is. What’s a cuckold man to do but hire his wife’s lover to kill his wife? But of course, things don’t exactly go as planned. Fun, thrilling, and featuring one of Douglas’ pattented “WASP-y creep” performances, this is a blast.

For fans of: Dial M for MurderThe Fugitive, that cool ’90s sheen.

 

Back to the Future
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 1985

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Obviously, you know what Back to the Future is. But there’s a reason this movie remains a classic – it’s near-perfect. It’s got a fun, meticulously crafted script; charming performances; and neat special effects. What’s not to love? Cool teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back in time and accidentally stops his parents from meeting. Now he has to make sure they hook up at the school dance or he, and his siblings back in the present, will be erased from existence. Thankfully, Marty has help from scientist/nut Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and a well-timed lightning storm.

For fans of: I Wanna Hold Your HandBill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, kids who go back in time and have to seduce their mothers.

 

Defending Your Life
Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel

Release Date: 1991

Genre: Comedy

Director: Albert Brooks

Cast: Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep, Rip Torn, Lee Grant, Buck Henry

Sweet and funny, Defending Your Life has Albert Brooks playing a man killed by a bus. Don’t worry, though – that’s just at the start of the movie. From there, he ends up in a surreal afterlife where he has to defend his actions on Earth in order to move on to someplace better, or be forced to go back and do it all over again. While in the afterlife he meets and falls for another dead person, played delightfully by Meryl Streep, who is so god damn good here it’s ridiculous. Charming, cute – but not too cute, and ultimately warm, this is just an utter delight of a movie. Watch it now and you’ll feel better, I promise.

For fans of: Heaven Can WaitLost in America, all-you-can-eat afterlife food.

Kate Plays Christine
Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel

Release Date: 2016

Genre: Documentary

Director: Robert Greene

Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil

Robert Greene‘s unique documentary Kate Plays Christine finds actress Kate Lyn Sheil preparing to play Christine Chubbuck, a TV reporter who infamously shot herself on live TV in the 1970s. Sheil tries to get inside Chubbuck’s head while Greene’s camera tracks her every move, and we, the audience, are forced to reckon with our obsession with violence. Haunting and wholly extraordinary, this is the complete opposite of all the standard talking-head documentaries you’ve seen.

For fans of: ChristineShe Dies Tomorrow, questioning everything you’re seeing.

 

Mousehunt
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 1997

Genre: Comedy

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Christopher Walken

When DreamWorks tasked Gore Verbinski, in his feature directorial debut, with making Mouse Hunt, they expected a light family comedy. What they got was a weird, dark comedy that probably could’ve killed Verbinski’s career. Instead, he went on to become a billion-dollar Disney filmmaker. Go figure. Here, Nathan Lane and Lee Evans play two brothers who discover the abandoned mansion their rich father left them has a rodent problem. And getting rid of the mouse is not going to be easy. What follows is a series of bizarre slapstick moments that are all building towards the invention of string cheese. Yes, really. It’s fun.

For fans of: RatatouilleA Cure For Wellness, Christopher Walken cameos.

 

Challenger: The Final Flight
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Documentary

Director: Steven Leckart and Daniel Junge

An in-depth, often emotional examination of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Challenger: The Final Flight examines just what went wrong with that doomed mission that killed all seven crew members aboard, including civilian Christa McAuliffe, who was meant to be the first teacher in space. The Final Flight speaks with people who were involved with the mission and highlights the many warning signs that the people in power ignored. It’s not exactly an uplifting watch, but it’s fascinating and never exploitative, taking care to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

For fans of: Apollo 13Apollo 11.

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