Netflix is heating up this month! The streamer is freshening up its film library with a new selection of classics and originals, clearing out some titles leaving in May to make room for a June lineup that’s better than ever before.
This month, Netflix is kicking things off with the beloved classic The Big Lebowski, the Coen Brothers comedy starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. Also on June 1, the streamer is adding Spike Lee’s The Best Man and the Hilary Swank sports drama Million Dollar Baby. Basically, there’s truly something for everyone — and that’s only on the first day of the month.
As we move along in June, Netflix is debuting a new original film June 9 with Awake, the Gina Rodriguez thriller about a woman who finds herself in the middle of a mysterious and terrifying time when humanity is overcome with an inexplicable wave of insomnia. And just days later, another Netflix film drops on June 18, when the Kevin Hart dramedy Fatherhood premieres on the streamer.
To close out the month, Netflix is adding Good on Paper, a comedy starring Iliza Shlesinger, and The Ice Road, a tense drama with Liam Neeson. Curious what other can’t-miss titles are dropping on Netflix in the next few weeks? Keeping scrolling to check out our full list of what movies to watch on Netflix in June.
‘The Big Lebowski’
Released June 1
A Coen Brothers cult favorite is landing on Netflix this month. The streamer is kicking off June with The Big Lebowski, the 1998 comedy starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” Jeff Lebowski. When he’s mistaken for a billionaire with the same name, The Dude finds himself on a mission to track down the billionaire’s kidnapped wife and bring her back — but when his accomplice (John Goodman) schemes to keep the ransom money intended to free the captured wife, their plan goes off the rails.
Where to watch The Big Lebowski
‘The Best Man’
Released June 1
Spike Lee’s The Best Man went on to spawn a sequel and an upcoming Peacock spin-off series, but now the 1999 original that started it all is available to stream on Netflix. The hit rom-com stars Taye Diggs as bachelor Harper Stewart, an author whose latest work was inspired by his own friends. Even though Harper tries to hide the truth behind the book, his ex, Jordan (Nia Long), gets an advance copy and connects the dots to real life. It all goes down just as Harper is set to join his close friend’s wedding as his best man, complicating the celebration and his relationships.
Where to watch The Best Man
‘Million Dollar Baby’
Released June 1
If you’re in the mood for an emotional sports drama, Million Dollar Baby delivers. The 2004 hit stars Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald, an aspiring boxer who enlists in the help of pro trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to hone her skills in the ring. While Frankie is cold and reluctant at first, he begrudgingly agrees to help Maggie, and the two form a strong bond. Million Dollar Baby burst into awards season in 2004, earning a Best Picture win at the Oscars — and now you can see why when you stream the hit on Netflix.
Where to watch Million Dollar Baby
‘Stand by Me’
Released June 1
Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic — which is inspired by the Stephen King novel “The Body” — tells the story of four boys who venture through their Oregon town to see the body of a man who died there. The coming-of-age story shows how that single day impacted Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Vern (Jerry O’Connell), Chris (River Phoenix) and Teddy (Corey Feldman) in lasting ways. After returning to theaters in late May, the film is hitting Netflix this month, so get ready for a dose of nostalgia.
Where to watch Stand by Me
‘Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet’
Released June 4
David Attenborough returns to Netflix with Breaking Boundaries, a new science documentary about humans’ impact on the Earth and what steps can be taken to save humanity and the planet. Renowned scientist Professor Johan Rockström and Attenborough take viewers along for an exploration into how we’ve altered the Earth, why the environment is changing so rapidly and most importantly, what we can do in the next decade to get back on track.
Where to watch Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet
Released June 9
Looking for a summer thriller? Awake is the one to watch, with former soldier Jill (Gina Rodriguez) fighting off a mysterious wave of insomnia that’s swept over the human race. With everyone rapidly deteriorating from lack of sleep and deprived from electronics, the only hope lies in Jill’s daughter (Arianna Greenblatt), who hasn’t been affected by the strange phenomenon. Faced with the decision between fleeing with her family or revealing her daughter’s secret in hopes of saving humanity, Jill is faced with one of the toughest choices of her life.
Where to watch Awake
‘Silver Linings Playbook’
Released June 17
Part comedy, part drama, and part romance, Silver Linings Playbook is a crowd-pleaser. The David O. Russell film, which premiered in 2012, follows Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man who has moved back in with his parents after being released from a psychiatric hospital. Determined to win back his estranged wife, Pat finds an unlikely ally in Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who agrees to help him if he’ll enter a dance competition with her. Silver Linings Playbook was a hit when it first premiered in theaters, earning eight Academy Award nominations, and now you can stream it as many times as you’d like on Netflix.
Where to watch Silver Linings Playbook
Released June 18
Kevin Hart fans will see a new side of the comedian in Fatherhood, a Netflix original drama about a single dad struggling to raise his daughter after his wife dies. While Channing Tatum was originally set to lead the film, Hart took over in 2019, with About A Boy‘s Paul Weitz directing. The film, which is based on a memoir by Matthew Logelin, also stars Melody Hurd, Alfre Woodard, Anthony Carrigan, Lil Rel Howery, Paul Reiser and Deborah Ayorinde. And if you’re looking for a Father’s Day watch, Netflix timed it right — Fatherhood premieres just two days before the holiday on June 18.
Where to watch Fatherhood
‘Good On Paper’
Released June 23
Netflix is cooking up a fresh summer rom-com with Good on Paper, an original movie starring comedian Iliza Shlesinger, Ryan Hansen, and Margaret Cho. Shlesinger plays Andrea, a work-focused stand-up comic who takes a chance on Dennis (Hansen), a too-good-to-be-true stranger she meets on a plane. After the two begin dating, Andrea’s best friend Margot (Cho) suggests something has to be up with her seemingly perfect new boyfriend. Determined to find out what he’s hiding, Margot and Andrea hatch a wild plan to uncover the real Dennis.
Where to watch Good on Paper
‘Murder by the Coast’
Released June 23
Murder mystery fanatics, this one’s for you. Netflix is quickly becoming the go-to streamer for true crime docs; between The Sons of Sam,American Murder, and more, the genre has only grown in the past year, and Murder by the Coast is the latest addition. The Spanish doc explores the 1999 death of teen Rocío Wanninkhof, who was murdered in Mijas, Málaga, Spain. While her mother’s former lover was suspected of carrying out the crime at the time, Murder by the Coast takes a second, deeper look at the truth behind the infamous case two decades later.
Where to watch Murder by the Coast
‘The Ice Road’
Released June 25
Liam Neeson delivers an icy action flick to kick off summer with The Ice Road, a thriller about a trucker who enlists on a rescue mission. After a diamond mine unexpectedly collapses in Canada, a big-rig ice road driver (Neeson) must traverse a frozen ocean to get the trapped miners and save them in time. With the water below thawing out and the weather turning increasingly dangerous, the rescue effort quickly turns more perilous than anyone could have imagined.
The It List is Yahoo’s weekly look at the best in pop culture, including movies, music, TV, streaming, games, books, podcasts and more. Here are our picks for Aug. 16-22, including the best deals we could find for each. (Yahoo Entertainment may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.)
WATCH IT: Bachelor in Paradise returns with some familiar faces — and new hosts
It’s been two years since our favorite castoffs looked for love in Mexico, but after a pandemic-filled hiatus, BIP is back. ABC is flipping the Bachelor in Paradise format on its head after the departure of the franchise’s longtime host, Chris Harrison, with the introduction of a rotating schedule of hosts including Lance Bass, Tituss Burgess, Lil Jon and David Spade for the upcoming season. The Aug. 16 premiere will also mark the show’s postpandemic debut and feature castmates from various seasons past who continue to look for love. Season 7 features a lot of men from Katie Thurston and Clare Crawley-Tayshia Adams’s seasons of The Bachelorette, while many of the women previously competed for Matt James’s and Peter Weber’s hearts. There are some old fan-favorites (Becca Kufrin! Grocery Store Joe!) returning, too. And similar to seasons past, the show will have no shortage of drama, including a disruption from producers who are seen announcing, “It’s no longer safe for you guys to stay in Paradise,” in the show’s trailer. — Kerry Justich and Taryn Ryder
Bachelor in Paradise premieres Monday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
WATCH IT: The Smartest Kids in the World puts the U.S. school system under the microscope
Even before the coronavirus pandemic changed the face of American education, students were already facing immense challenges within the current system. Journalist Amanda Ripley addressed some of those challenges in her 2014 book, The Smartest Kids in the World, which serves as the launching point for Tracy Droz Tragos’s absorbing new documentary of the same name. Filmed before the pandemic and premiering Aug. 19 on the Discovery+ streaming service, the film profiles four high school students who travel overseas to countries like Finland and South Korea to find the kind of educational opportunities that are missing at home. This exclusive clip from the film profiles 16-year-old Sadie, who finds herself adrift and alone in her public high school in Maine. During the course of the film, she spends a year abroad in Switzerland, and discovers there’s a better way for her to go to school. — Ethan Alter
The Smartest Kids in the World premieres Aug. 19 on Discovery+.
WATCH IT: Nick Broomfield revisits Biggie and Tupac murders with Last Man Standing
In 2002, British provocateur Nick Broomfield released Biggie and Tupac, an unsettling, eye-opening deep dive into the murders of the revered hip-hop icons. Nearly 20 years later, Broomfield is back with what equates to a documentary sequel, Last Man Standing. The impetus? With Death Row Records chief Suge Knight — who’s long been whispered to be connected to Biggie’s death but never implicated — now behind bars for a long time, a lot more people are willing to talk about Knight’s alleged role in it all. Broomfield shifts the focus to Knight for Part 2, and it’s another whopper of a doc. Check out an exclusive clip from the film above. — Kevin Polowy
Last Man Standing opens in theaters and on-demand Aug. 20.
WATCH IT: You’ll feel the heat of the California wildfires in Lucy Walker’s documentary, Bring Your Own Brigade
Released in the midst of California’s wildfire season, Bring Your Own Brigade chronicles how the nation’s most populous state got to this increasingly perilous present moment — and what can be done to address it. Director Lucy Walker speaks with the survivors of the deadly 2018 fires that devastated multiple California communities, as well as the men and women who are combating the flames on the ground or in the lab. The film also features searing on-the-ground footage of the wildfires swallowing up homes and forests, forcing residents to flee for their lives. In this exclusive clip, some of Walker’s subjects explain why climate change alone isn’t responsible for why California’s fires have gotten more destructive in recent years, and why that doesn’t make them “climate change deniers.” — E.A.
STREAM IT: Henry Golding draws crazy rich praise as Snake Eyes hits digital
G.I. Joe fans have been waiting for a Snake Eyes spin-off for years, and they finally got their wish with the July actioner released in theaters. While reviews for the film were mixed, there was one element almost everyone agreed was golden: Crazy Rich Asians breakout Henry Golding as the eponymous lone fighter recruited into the secretive Arashikage Clan. Check out an exclusive clip above of Golding breaking down his costume as Snake Eyes hits digital this week. — K.P.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins premieres on digital and on-demand Aug. 17.
WATCH IT: Get to know crusading Congresswoman Barbara Lee in the documentary Speaking Truth to Power
For 22 years and 12 terms, Congresswoman Barbara Lee has served California’s 13th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently the highest-ranking Black woman in Congress. Abby Ginzberg’s new film, Speaking Truth to Power, puts Lee’s public service career in the spotlight, illustrating how she was inspired by leading Black political figures like Shirley Chisholm to enter the political realm. Lee made her mark early in her tenure when she gave an emotional speech explaining why she was voting against the authorization of military force following the 9/11 attacks — the only congressional representative to do so. As she recounts in the film, that choice earned her praise, as well as death threats. This exclusive clip features political commentator Van Jones and Sen. Cory Booker sharing their thoughts about why Lee’s voice in Congress matters more than ever. — E.A.
Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power premieres Aug. 20 in theaters and on VOD services, including Prime Video.
WATCH IT: The surrealistic animated thriller, Cryptozoo, is like X-Men meets Jurassic Park
After its award-winning premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Dash Shaw’s wildly inventive, fantastically surreal and definitely R-rated carton feature, Cryptozoo, is finally available to the general public. Destined to be a future midnight movie favorite, the hand-drawn film combines X-Men, Jurassic Park and The Last Unicorn into a wild ride. Lake Bell heads up an all-star vocal cast as Lauren, a dedicated seeker of “cryptids” — mythical and magical creatures that society at large either ignores or exploits. Although she hopes to keep these beings safe at the titular refuge, the outside world has other, more violent plans. This exclusive clip from the film shows off Shaw’s beautifully stylized animation, and the “human vs. cryptid” action that could give Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs a run for their money. —E.A.
Cryptozoo premieres Aug. 20 in theaters and on most VOD services; visit Fandango for showtime and ticket information.
WATCH IT: The mother-daughter drama, Confetti, provides an emotional immigrant story
Following the critical and commercial success of last year’s Oscar-winning Minari, Hollywood’s door is open for more films about the Asian American immigrant experience. Enter Confetti, which stars Cloud Atlas star Zhu Zhu as Chen Lan, a young mother who brings her dyslexic daughter Meimei (Harmonie He) to New York City in search of a school that can help her. Moving in with a wheelchair-using author named Helen (Amy Irving), the two find themselves caught between underfunded, overpopulated public schools and private institutions that come with a huge price tag. Meanwhile, Chen Lan fights to hide her own learning disabilities at the expense of her mental and emotional health. This exclusive clip finds Chen Lan and Helen escorting Meimei to the neighborhood school, where they immediately realize that getting the help she needs will be a bigger challenge than expected. — E.A.
Confetti premieres Aug. 20 in theaters; visit Fandango for showtime and ticket information
STREAM IT: Hulu’s star-studded Nine Perfect Strangers puts mystery into healing
Can’t get enough of HBO’s The White Lotus? Hulu’s got you covered. The similarly sharp and entertaining comedic drama Nine Perfect Strangers follows that many privileged if tortured or broken souls to a ritzy health and wellness retreat where they face off against Nicole Kidman’s enigmatic Russian guru. Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, Samara Weaving, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans and Tiffany Boone help round out a stellar cast. – K.P.
America’s most popular musical genre finally gets the Smithsonian package treatment it deserves, as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings team up for the nine-disc, 129-track, four-decade-spanning boxed set Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. The ambitious project, part of the Smithsonian African American Legacy Series, ranges from the influential work of early innovators like the Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa to current superstar MCs like Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Drake, and it comes with a 300-page coffee table book. To quote Boogie Down Productions, you must learn and pick up this box. – Lyndsey Parker
Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap is available Friday, Aug. 20 to purchase on Amazon.
WATCH IT: Kevin Bacon is the cherry on top of Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones
Ice cream lovers will want to indulge in their favorite pint of Ben and Jerry’s — or at least their current fave — during the four episodes of this new Food Network show, which features six ice cream makers from all over the country competing to create an original flavor for the delightfully hippie brand. (You know, your future favorite!) On each installment, the contestants will work at the brand’s ice cream lab in Waterbury, Vt., to “capture the essence of a celebrity or pop culture icon in a new and innovative ice cream flavor,” with the directions coming from the celebrity themselves. First up is ubiquitous actor Kevin Bacon, who challenges the chefs to craft a flavor with, yes, “6 degrees of ingredients.” Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and two of Food Network’s own stars, pastry chef Duff Goldman and baker Buddy Valastro, will serve as celeb inspirations on later episodes. — Raechal Shewfelt
Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones premieres Monday, Aug. 16 at 9 p.m. on Food Network; it’s available to stream on Discovery the same day.
HEAR IT: Lorde shines brighter than ever
After a more than four-year hiatus, Ella Yelich-O’Connor is finally back with her third album, Solar Power. Although the album does reunite her with frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, the New Zealand singer-songwriter seems to have abandoned the goth-pop moodiness of her previous efforts — Pure Heroine and the Antonoff-produced Album of the Year Grammy nominee Melodrama— for feel-good beachy vibes, judging by the winsome “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” the sunshine-soaked title track and that famously internet-breaking album art. — L.P.
Solar Powerby Lorde is available Friday, Aug. 20 to download/stream on Apple Music.
BUY IT: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth celebrates 35th anniversary with 4K release
If you were a ’70s or ’80s baby, chances are your childhood included being enchanted by Labyrinth, the Jim Henson-directed, George Lucas-produced fantasy classic starring a young Jennifer Connelly, rock god David Bowie, and a colorful ensemble of puppet creations. The film now gets a 4K UHD upgrade in honor of its 35th anniversary, with an exciting cache of new special features including over 25 minutes of never-before-seen deleted scenes and screen tests for teen heroine Sarah that include Molly Ringwald and Growing Pains star Tracey Gold. — K.P.
Labyrinth releases on 4K UHD Aug. 17. Buy it on Amazon.
HEAR IT: You just can’t shake Debbie Gibson’s love
Before Taylor Swift or Billie Eilish, there was Debbie Gibson — who still holds the Guinness World Record as the youngest female artist to ever write produce and perform a Billboard No. 1 single (a feat she accomplished in 1987, at age 17). Now she’s back with her 10th album, The Body Remembers, her first studio release with original songs since 2001. But there’s one flashback track, a duet remake of her 1989 hit ballad “Lost in Your Eyes,” which features her peer Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block. Electric youth springs eternal! — L.P.
The Body Remembers by Debbie Gibson is available Friday, Aug. 20 to download/stream on Apple Music.
WATCH IT: Hugh Jackman has a memory machine in sci-fi thriller Reminiscence
Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy makes her feature film directorial debut with this clever blend of throwback film noir and futuristic sci-fi set in a post-apocalyptic Miami submerged in water. Hugh Jackman stars as a veteran of a seismic global war who now oversees a machine allowing weary residents to escape the darkness of their modern-day life by reliving happy memories — that is until his world is turned upside down by the arrival of Rebecca Ferguson’s femme fatale. Come for Jackman getting his Philip Marlowe on, stay for Joy’s striking visuals. — K.P.
Reminiscence opens Aug. 20 in theaters and on HBO Max. Get tickets on Fandango.
HEAR IT: Wanda Jackson throws one last party
The 83-years-young original queen of rockabilly announced her retirement in 2019, but she’s not quite done yet. Her final (and 32nd!) studio album, Encore, features fellow badasses like Elle King, Angaleena Presley, Candi Carpenter, Lori McKenna, and — as both a duet partner and producer — even the almighty Joan Jett. Jett’s imprint label, Blackheart Records, is also co-releasing Encore with Big Machine Records. The album is a fitting last hurrah for a legend like Jackson, whose trailblazing career began in 1954 when she was only 16 years old. — L.P.
Encore by Wanda Jackson is available Friday, Aug. 20 to download/stream on Apple Music.
—Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee
This weekend the standalone follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad — The Suicide Squad — releases in theaters. If you don’t feel like going on to see it, you’re in luck; the film is also available to stream on HBO Max, along with a ton of our great films on video on demand. We’ve got Michael Sarnoski’s Pig starring Nicolas Cage, the animated musical comedy Vivo starring Lin-Manuel Miranda on Netflix, the Val Kilmer Documentary Val on Amazon Prime Video, along with several other new releases.
To help you get a handle on what’s new and available, here are the movies you can watch on video on demand and streaming this weekend.
The Suicide Squad
Where to watch: In theaters and available to stream on HBO Max
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad features returning stars Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Joel Kinnaman (The Killing), Viola Davis (Widows), and Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys) joined by series newcomers Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), John Cena (F9: the Fast Saga), David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), and a whole bunch of others. Set an indeterminate amount of time after the previous movie, the new Suicide Squad finds itself dispatched to the South American island of Corto Maltese on a covert mission to ensure national security to shave a few years off their prison sentences. A giant starfish may say otherwise. From our review,
Comparing The Suicide Squad to Guardians of the Galaxy is a bit hard to avoid, especially since Gunn has such a well-defined sensibility that has now been applied to make unlikely crowd-pleasers across two mega-franchises at competing studios. Mostly, as above, the comparison is favorable — but other times it isn’t. The Suicide Squad is at its best when it’s doing things that Marvel Studios will not: R-rated action comedy, setpieces that prioritize performers over computer effects, and a story that isn’t afraid to gesture at real-world geopolitical conflict. It’s at its weakest when it embraces a Marvel-style ending, filing away its rough edges to deliver a sentimental finish that leaves the status quo more or less intact for potential future projects.
Nicolas Cage (Mandy) stars in Michael Sarnoski’s revenge drama Pig as Rob, a former chef-turned-reclusive truffle forager living deep in the forests of Oregon with his prize hog. When Rob is assaulted and his pig is stolen, he’ll have to embark on tense journey back to his past stomping grounds in order to retrieve. Though the casting of Cage alone and the premise alone may lead one to suspect that this is just the latest in a long string of John Wick riffs, the film turns out to be anything but. Based on our pals at Vulture’s review, Pig is a tense, soulful, drama following a man as he parses through the regrets of his past and cuts anyone standing in his way down to the bone with nothing save a word.
Hamilton producer Lin-Manuel Miranda stars in Sony Pictures Animation’s comedy Vivo as a lovable, music-obsessed kinkajou who forms a bond with the elderly Andrés. When tragedy befalls the duo, Vivo embarks on a quest to deliver a message to Andrés’ former partner Marta Sandoval; a love letter written to her in the form of a song. Features gorgeous settings and several new songs written by Miranda himself, Vivo looks like it’ll be a sincere feel-good time. From our review:
Miranda’s songwriting skills are still stellar, but the best part of Vivo happens when the music and animation work in tandem to elevate the story, playing with the visual style to highlight the music, so it all meshes together in a beautiful symphony. Andrés sings about his memories with Marta, and the movie shifts into a retro concert-poster style, with bright blocks of color and soft edges. When Gabi sings an anthem to being unapologetically weird, it becomes a neon techscape. These moments are transcendent, a testament to both the strength of the music and the creativity of the animation production design.
John and the Hole
Where to watch: In select theaters and available to rent for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video; $6.99 on Apple, Vudu
Based on a short story by Birdman screenwriter Nicolás Giacobone, Pascual Sisto’s American psychological thriller John and the Hole stars Charlie Shotwell as a 13-year-old who traps his family in a mysterious hole buried near his home. The film co-stars Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) as John’s parents Brad and Anna, as well as Taissa Farmiga (The Final Girls) as John’s older sister Laurie. From our review,
John and the Hole doesn’t hit like Lanthimos’ surrealist larks or Lynne Ramsay’s portrait of a school killer, We Need to Talk About Kevin, but it does ask provocative questions about modern children and their modern parents. (I guess what I’m saying is that it’s the good version of Modern Family.) Risks emerge as society becomes more attuned to the complexity of young people, and respects them as more adult than previous generations. Kids are still kids, and not every young person is on the same developmental track. Money, privilege, and personal philosophy all challenge the evolving norms. Why would a kid push their parents into a hole? Why wouldn’t they? Few movies ask the question, to be honest.
Featuring behind-the-scenes footage spanning Val Kilmer’s entire life shot by the actor himself, Leo Scott and Ting Poo’s documentary Val centers on the daily life of the actor through the trials and triumphs of his professional career, his personal life, his struggles with cancer, and his dedication to the craft of acting and storytelling. Val looks like it’ll shape up to be an exceptional and unique documentary of one of the most iconic screen presences of the late 20th century.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
F9: The Fast Saga
Where to watch: In theaters and available to rent for $19.99 on Amazon Prime Video, Apple, and Vudu
F is for family that does stuff together! In F9: The Fast Saga, the (supposedly) penultimate chapter in the long-running Fast and Furious franchise, that “stuff” involves Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his ride-or-die crew of civilian stunt drivers turned clandestine super-spies being pitted in a race (pun intended) against time to stop a devastating super-weapon from falling into the wrong hands. Things get even more complicated when Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) shows up to throw a wrench in the works, pitting the two Toretto siblings in a deadly battle of wills as they hash out their baggage. Oh yeah, Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) go to space in this one. From our review,
F9 counteracts any character development by devoting a grating amount of time to meta-commentary on its own ridiculousness. On this lap of the franchise, Roman confronts the existential nature of the family’s inability to be harmed. How do they never get shot? How do they survive every car crash? Have they been chosen? If these were the incoherent mutterings of a man in constant action, it might be the perfect seriousness-deflating banter to cap any given action set-piece. But there are entire dialogue-driven scenes unpacking the possible supernatural forces at work in the Fast franchise. If the asides are setup for the series’ eventual crossover with Diesel’s Last Witch Hunter universe (c’mon, it’s good!), then the film isn’t taking the magical element seriously enough. If it’s just comic relief, it’s padding that falls flat — but not as flat as the five-minute gag about which Star Wars character Charlize Theron’s villain Cipher would be, the moment F9 goes full cringe.
Choo choo, all aboard the Jungle Cruise! The latest effort in Disney’s ongoing effort to spin every one of its notable theme-park rides into a sustainable theatrical franchise, Jungle Cruise stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Frank “Skipper” Wolff, a riverboat captain hired to transport Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) into the heart of the exotic jungle in search of the Tree of Life. It’s not exactly Fitzcarraldo or The Lost City of Z, but it does have zombie snake-men and CG-animated leopards, plus Jesse Plemons as a German aristocrat in a submarine. From our review,
Jungle Cruise is beholden not just to the antiquated tropes of archaeological adventure movies, but also the ride’s own problematic legacy. To their credit, the filmmakers do their best to subvert that legacy. The choice to have the coveted treasure be part of the natural world, instead of the ruins of an ancient civilization already helps. But the best adaptation is that the indigenous people of the jungle are civilized, and they’re Frank’s buddies — they only attack the tourists because they have an agreement where he pays them to scare the travelers for extra thrills. The leader of the tribe — the infamous Trader Sam, originally an outdated park character — is a woman in the movie. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and is more of an Easter Egg than a woman of color with a story of her own, but at least the filmmakers are acknowledging the ride’s past and considering how to modernize their thinking.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An action-packed crime-thriller remake of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist that reimagines the rosy-cheeked orphan with a heart of gold as a wayward teenage graffiti artist with a gift for parkour. No? Well, that’s what Martin Owen’s Twist is, in a nutshell. Rafferty Law (Repo Men) stars as Oliver Twist opposite Michael Caine (The Dark Knight) as his criminal mentor Fagin, with Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) rounding out the principal cast as Twist’s nemesis Sikes. Admittedly, this whole premise sounds odd and seems more than likely to fall flat, but at least it’s unique.
Matt DeHart, an Air National Guard veteran turned whistleblower, working with the online hacktivist group Anonymous, fled to Canada in 2013, alleging that he had inadvertently stumbled across information so sensitive that the FBI wanted him detained … or worse. The FBI paints a different story, alleging that DeHart was an online child predator and that he sought asylum to evade the consequences. Sonia Kennebeck’s documentary Enemies of the State delves into the labyrinthine drama implicating DeHart and his family, poring through reams of legal documents and interviewing agents and suspects connected to the case in order to unravel the truth and its possible implications.
Jake Johnson (New Girl, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse) stars in Trent O’Donnell’s Ride the Eagle as Leif, a pot-smoking conga-band drummer who leaves his life in the city to move out to a picturesque cabin in Northern California bequeathed to him by his estranged mother Honey (Susan Sarandon). Before he can actually move in, however, he’ll have to complete a to-do list left behind by his mom as a part of his conditional inheritance. So it’s like the 12 labors of Hercules, only instead of a quest to become a god, it’s about transferring real estate and growing into an emotionally mature, self-sufficient adult. Also, it’s a comedy!
Explorers arrive on a world covered in knee-high water. Distant “mountains” come sweeping towards them: a planet-spanning kilometres-high killer tide. They escape, only for an unhinged astronaut to maroon them, a little later, on a solid airborne cloud of exotic ice.
Often silly, sometimes truly visionary, Interstellar is the best rejoinder the 21st century has yet made to Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey. Matthew McConaughey plays Joseph Cooper, a widowed NASA pilot who is called upon to journey into interstellar space to find an Earthlike “Planet B” for us to move to, now that the Earth’s food system is collapsing. Jessica Chastain plays his grown-up daughter, haunted by her father’s ghost.
Their performances carry real conviction, but it is the set pieces that matter. Gargantua, a spinning black hole that provides the film with its climax, is a visual effect calculated so accurately by physicist Kip Thorne and rendered so meticulously by London effects studio Double Negative, it ended up in a paper for the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.
Years earlier, Thorne and film producer Lynda Obst had conceived of a movie exploring what, in an interview with Science magazine, Thorne called “the warped side of the universe – black holes, wormholes, higher dimensions, and so forth”. They’re the subject of Thorne’s very entertaining book The Science of Interstellar.
Nolan, meanwhile, has gone on to make movies of increasing complexity. Tenet is his latest, doing for time what Interstellar did for space.
Sam Rockwell in Moon
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Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is preparing to leave the moon at the end of his three-year stint as sole supervisor of a helium-3 mine. (Robert Zubrin’s book Entering Space gave Duncan Jones the film’s industrial premise.) But Sam is also trapped in the carcass of a crashed lunar ore conveyor. And as Sam and Sam wrestle with their inexplicable meeting, they must solve an obvious and pressing puzzle: just how many more Sams might there be?
Offered a low-budget British sci-fi movie by a first-time director, Rockwell left things until the last minute, then grabbed at the chance of playing against himself. Once on board, his commitment was total: riffing and extemporising off memories of his own performance, he insisted on distinguishing the two Sams more by demeanour than by costume changes. The result is a compelling, emotionally charged thriller, spiked with an inventive mix of effects (from CGI to model work to simple, deft editing) that keeps the audience off-balance throughout the movie. Jones has yet to top his debut work, and Rockwell, for all his subsequent successes, will forever be remembered as the Moon guy(s).
Eve Green in Proxima
Shot in the European Space Agency’s training facilities in Germany, and in the complex outside Moscow that is home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Alice Winocour’s third feature Proxima never leaves the ground, and yet it remains an out-of-this-world experience.
Cinematographer Georges Lechaptois brilliantly captures these rarely glimpsed spaces in all their strangeness, banality and occasional dilapidation. One can’t help but think, watching this, that being an astronaut must be like being a professional athlete – one’s glamorous career being conducted, for the most part, in smelly changing rooms.
Plaudits also to Eva Green for her portrayal of Sarah Loreau, a single mother given a last-minute opportunity to join a mission to the International Space Station. Green conveys wonderfully Sarah’s conflicted state of both wanting to go to space but not wanting to be separated from her daughter. The solution is there but it’s going to be hard to forge, and Green’s performance is heart-rending.
Alien in Alien
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Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, member of a sensible and resourceful space-going cargo crew whose capabilities are going to prove of no use whatsoever as they confront a predatory, stowaway alien.
Critics loved Alien: they said it would change how we thought about science fiction. It also, for some of us who caught it at the right age, changed how we thought about biology.
We have been an apex predator for so long, we have forgotten the specialness of our privilege. Alien reminds us of what the natural world is really like. It locates us in the middle of things, not without resources but most definitely not at the top of a food chain. It reminds us that living processes are predatory – that life is about tearing living things apart to get at their raw material.
The clumsily named “xenomorph” of the Alien movies has an infamous life cycle, loosely based on those of certain parasitic wasps, but with the added ingredient of plasticity. A hugged human brings forth a humanoid alien. A hugged dog produces a canine. (Where the aquatic aliens of Alien: Resurrection (1997) spring from is anyone’s guess.)
If you want to know what Darwin said, read On the Origin of Species. But if you want to know how it must have made its original readers feel – go watch Alien.
2001: A Space Odyssey
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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
When Stanley Kubrick suggested a movie idea to British writer Arthur Clarke, Clarke responded enthusiastically. “The ‘really good’ science-fiction movie is a great many years overdue,” he wrote.
The question – which the two never really resolved – was which really good movie to make. A film about the triumph of science and technology? Or a film about the timeless yearnings of the human spirit?
While Kubrick, a student of human nature, director of searing and discomforting films like Paths of Glory and Lolita, mined Japanese sci-fi movies for special effects, Clarke, a communications satellite pioneer as well as a writer, worked up a script centred on what he later dubbed “the God concept”.
Encompassing everything from the dawn of man, the space race, artificial intelligence, space exploration and trans-dimensional travel, 2001 centres on the duel between David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and the inadvertently-designed-to-be-murderous HAL, a computer that is guiding his ship to Jupiter. We tend to assume Clarke provided the film’s gosh-wow factor and Kubrick provided the unease. Not so: his 1960 story, The Challenge of the Spaceship shows Clarke already painfully aware of the challenges faced by a “little, self-contained community floating in vacuum millions of miles from anywhere, kept alive in a bubble of plastic and metal” with “absolutely nothing” happening.
The boredom and incipient madness that haunt both Bowman and the ship’s poor, boxed-in AI are the film’s chief point: that we cannot live by reason alone. We need something more.
Taraji P. Henson (centre) in Hidden Figures
20th Century Fox Film Corp. All
Hidden Figures (2016)
At NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1961, three Black female mathematicians, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), contribute their considerable mathematical ability to the agency’s efforts to launch white men into space. The unit they work in is segregated by gender and race but the difficulties they face are ignored by many of their colleagues. Their boss, Al Harrison, (a composite fictional character played by Kevin Costner), feels otherwise and proceeds to desegregate NASA single-handedly, armed only with an acid tongue and a sledgehammer.
The film is loosely based on 2016 book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, although it takes a less factual approach. For example, the film delays Johnson’s pioneering work by a good decade so that she can share feel-good moments with the other female cast members.
Whether that matters comes down to personal taste. It is no small thing that, thanks to this film, we now know Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson by name.
Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks in Apollo 13
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Apollo 13 (1995)
On 11 April 1970, a seventh crewed mission in the Apollo space programme launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was due to land in the Fra Mauro crater, and help establish the early history of both the moon and Earth.
Two days into the journey, an oxygen tank in the spacecraft’s service module exploded, and their flight path was changed to loop them around the moon and bring them back to Earth on 17 April. Dizzy from carbon dioxide levels in the air, mounting at a rate they thought would kill them, soaking wet from all the condensation, cold because power was now severely limited, and with only plastic bags of their own urine for company they couldn’t jettison for fear this would alter their course, commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Jack Swigert and Lunar Module pilot Fred Haise uttered hardly a word of complaint. Incredibly, they survived.
For his script, director Ron Howard has added one argument between Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and Haise (Bill Paxton) and otherwise changed barely a word of the official Apollo 13 transcript. Tom Hanks plays Lovell as a capable man dealing with a crisis. There are no epiphanies. Souls aren’t searched. For some, this might make for a slightly muted experience. But this painstakingly accurate film (the sets included bits of the Apollo 13 command module; even the actors’ pressure suits were airtight) remains peerless, utterly convincing in every shot and every gesture.
Ryan Gosling in First Man
Universal / Lifestyle pictures /
First Man (2018)
As if landing on the moon wasn’t enough, Neil Armstrong spent the rest of his life having to describe the experience to the world’s media. No wonder he became something of a recluse – which of course only served to generate even more media interest.
Armstrong, an aeronautical engineer and university professor, was a man who enjoyed his privacy. Cornered, what could he do but tell the same story again and again and again? Disappointed, their curiosity unslaked, people called him dull.
Two years after hurling a vocally challenged Ryan Gosling into his musical La La Land, Damien Chazelle cast him as Neil Armstrong, in a movie that promised to locate Armstrong’s beating heart and rich emotional life. As such, First Man is a triumph.
Gosling is the film actors’ film actor, capable of expressing deep emotion with astounding economy. Playing “buttoned up” hampers him hardly at all. And he is given plenty to work with. Josh Singer’s ingenious script gives Armstrong a profound and personal motivation for wanting to reach the moon that in no way interferes with the historical record, or trivialises its celebrated subject. As for the moon landing itself, it represents a milestone in cinematic technique. You’ll believe you were there, and you’ll wonder, deeply, why Armstrong, or anyone else for that matter, ever went.
Dennis Quaid in The Right Stuff
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The Right Stuff (1983)
Anchored by powerful performances by Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager and Ed Harris as John Glenn, Kaufman’s 3-hour-13-minute epic loosely follows Tom Wolfe’s book of the same name: a heart-thumping yet critical account of the earliest US efforts to send humans into space.
What is needed for that is, of course, “the right stuff”: a combination of skill, bravery and a somewhat blood-curdling fearlessness in the face of death. They are qualities superbly embodied in Shepard’s performance as test-pilot Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier (and, incidentally, a consultant on the film).
Leaving Earth also needed collaboration, organisation, even – heaven help us – publicity. Ed Harris is the squeaky-clean Glenn, destined to be the first American in space, whose “right stuff” has had its rough edges shaved off by endless classes, tests, magazine profiles and media events.
Historically, The Right Stuff isn’t especially accurate. In particular, Mercury astronauts Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard were critical of the way the film short-changed their compatriot Gus Grissom, who died in the Apollo 1 fire.
Still, it is a thoughtful and intelligent movie, as well as a thrilling one, and it captures very well the moment space travel became a serious, and corporate, enterprise.
Matt Damon in The Martian
20th Century Fox Film Corp. All
The Martian (2015)
Premised on a single, staggering inaccuracy (a Martian storm could never get up the energy to blow a spacecraft over) The Martian is an otherwise cleverly figured-out tale of how an astronaut (Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon), left for dead on the surface of Mars, might survive for four years on a diet of potatoes grown in recycled faecal matter.
Based on a book (by Andy Weir) that itself began life as a series of blog posts, Scott’s film retains an endearing, cobbled-together quality, which neatly (and by the end, really quite movingly) reflects Watney’s scrabble for survival.
Boasting habitat, spacesuit, spacecraft and launch vehicle designs that all carried NASA’s stamp of approval, The Martian flits between Watney’s Martian base, the ship in which his crew mates are returning home, and the offices and control rooms on Earth where everybody is frantically trying to do the right thing, as their chances of saving Watney narrow to a point.
An unashamed advertisement for NASA’s plans for Mars, and a celebration of its crewed programme’s rebirth after the Challenger disaster in 1986, The Martian already feels slightly dated. But its invention and good humour are timeless.
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / A
When a cloud of debris travelling faster than a speeding bullet collides with the space shuttle, mission specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) must make their way across gulfs of space on dwindling supplies of air and propellant in search of a vehicle that will take them home; soon the debris cloud will return on its inexorable orbit.
As likely to scare someone off a space career as inspire them to pursue one, Gravity is premised on the idea that low Earth orbit is so crowded with hardware and discarded junk that a collision could initiate a chain reaction known as the Kessler syndrome, and destroy every satellite.
For all that, Gravity is less a science fiction film than a survival film (think Open Water or Touching the Void, both from 2003), and is the last place you would go for a lesson in orbital mechanics. While not quite as egregiously silly as 2019’s Ad Astra (in which Brad Pitt literally leaps through Saturn’s ice rings, using a hatch-cover for an umbrella) Gravity is no 2001, no Apollo 13, no First Man.
But while accuracy is one thing; truth is quite another. With Gravity, director Cuarón triumphantly realised his ambition to make the first truly weightless-seeming film, conveying the environment and sensation of zero gravity more powerfully, immediately (and, yes, accurately) than any film-maker, before or since.
William Lee Scott, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Owen and Chad Lindberg in October Sky
Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / A
October Sky (1999)
NASA engineer Homer H. Hickam Jr.’s autobiography provided the seed for this drama about a teenager coming of age at the dawn of the space race. A 17-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal (he was still taking school classes during the filming) plays Homer, a high school student in Coalwood, West Virginia, when, in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first human-made satellite.
Inspired by the Soviet achievement, and encouraged by his teacher (Laura Dern), Homer and his fellow “rocket boys” start building their own homemade missiles. Chris Cooper finds gold in the somewhat thankless role of Homer’s father, conscientiously pouring cold water on his son’s dreams: what’s wrong with working in the local coal mine, he’d like to know?
Director Joe Johnston is better known for his rather more gung-ho approaches to heroism and rocket flight. (1991’s Rocketeer is a cult classic; Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) needs no introduction here.)
October Sky is an altogether more contained achievement: the touching story of imagination awakened by the possibilities of rocketry, space travel, and a world beyond Earth.