5 Must-Stream Movies Coming to Netflix in June 2018

The Departed — Martin Scorsese is unquestionably one of the most seminal filmmakers of the last and current century.  He is a singularly talented director whose credits include no less than Taxi Drive, Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino.  He reinvented the gangster genre from not only its B-movie roots, but the elevated romanticism of The Godfather.  And despite all of this, Oscar recognition evaded him until early in the new millennium, upon directing this adaptation of the Hong Kong detective series Infernal Affairs.

And, perhaps controversially, I think it is easily his best film to date: better developed and better realized than the certified classics of his earlier work.  It features the full gamut of sensational performances from Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and even Mark Wahlberg of all people.  It features the a serpentine narrative following a cop undercover as a gangster and a gangster who has successfully infiltrated the police.  Shifting loyalties abound about this at-times madcap, at-times meditative treatise about law, order and the blurred lines that often exist between them.

In Bruges — If you haven’t seen this manic, off-beat, pseudo-comedy before, you can easily be forgiven.  Most people haven’t.  I only know that it exists in the first place because in ran in front of a screening of Hamlet 2 (another seriously underrated movie) and was previously available on Netflix a few years back.  It’s a pretty obscure, if actually well-regarded, film with a lot of great, notable talent behind it that has, for me at least, never caught on in quite the way it really should have by now.

The movie opens immediately following a hit of a priest by a pair of professional hitmen (here played by Colin Farrell and Brenden Gleeson).  Their boss (Ralph Fiennes) tells them to lay low in Bruges, an isolated city in Belgium.  The plot, such as it is, plays out while the pair restlessly waits for further instruction in the decidedly old-fashioned European burg.  At times scathingly funny, depressively dramatic and jarringly action-packed, it’s a solid tour-de-force and all-around fascinating movie that should satisfy nearly any stripe of moviegoer.

Luke Cage: Season 2 — With the benefit of hindsight, the Marvel Netflix series have ultimately been a pretty mixed bag.  Some have been show-stopping classics in their own right (Jessica Jones), some have been unfortunately conceived if ultimately decent action series (Iron Fist) and pretty much everything else has been some shade of “great, but sadly couldn’t stick the landing).  Daredevil Season 1 took way too long to get to the endgame, Daredevil Season 2 stopped being interesting after the Punisher was dealt with in the first couple of episodes and The Defenders is dragged down by all of Iron Fist‘s narrative baggage.

Even Luke Cage hasn’t been able to rise above this mid-tier status.  Despite its uncannily perfectly cast leading man, immersive take on Harlem, compelling narrative through-line and all the rest, the whole production is bogged down by a third act villain switch-up from the infinitely compelling Cottonmouth to the decidedly less interesting Diamond Back.  The fakeout with Misty almost losing her arm is pretty dumb, all told, especially when they went and had her lose it anyway after the fact.  And Black Mariah, a compelling character in her own right, is unfortunately sidelined for less interesting antagonists Diamond Back and Shades.

Although I’m not looking forward for a second pass at Diamond Back (if they’re indeed playing out that particular plotline to its foregone conclusion), I am incredibly interested to see where they take Mariah.  In fact, I’m hopeful that Diamond Back will be reduced to the status of cameo or less so that she can fully take center stage as the inheritor to her cousin’s mantle of the Harlem underworld.  If nothing else, Luke has proven to be a commanding screen presence and a fascinating character and Misty has continued to be a solid supporting player by his side.

Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi — Although I was, to one degree or another a little disappointed with the most recent entry into the Star Wars saga, I cannot begin to call it a bad movie (unlike a certain subsect of supposed Star Wars fans that find themselves endlessly raging a the thought of its broadened, more diverse cast and the interesting, genuinely affecting risks that it took with many of its key characters).  When you stop to think about it for more than a few seconds, it’s genuinely the biggest and boldest risk that the franchise has taken since the first movie.

What bothers me about this movie is just how much screen time is devoted to plots, sub plots and story beats that ultimately unravel and produce zero impact on the actual story of the film.  The most egregious in this regard is Finn and Rose’s story, which has them crossing the galaxy, getting sprung from prison and break into the enemy starship, only to be betrayed by their new supposed-ally off-screen and forcing them to rejoin everybody else in the chase scene unraveling right in front of them.  It’s a fetch-quest that exists solely to eat up time and give the characters something to do and it feels as if something more substantive could have been found for them to do or the narrative could have ultimately proved more impactful by its end.  That being said, though, the action is fantastic, the new star-crossed settings are varyingly inventive and gorgeous, the emotional beats are powerfully resonant and I am genuinely excited about where they decide to take things in the third part after this movie’s expert twists.  Bring on the sequels!

Thor: Ragnarok — Despite several passes at the concept and no lack of trying, Thor never really worked in the MCU: at least, not the way that he was supposed to.  Given the inherent weirdness of the property, Marvel always seemed a little reluctant to well and truly let him off of the leash.  He was always contextualized with Earth, his weirdness always contrasted with the mundane.  His franchise, no matter how loftily Shakespearian or cosmically ambitious, was always cut with an overbearing dose of real-worldliness, whereas Ragnarok proved that Thor, as a poperty, is so much more infectiously fun when taken on his own terms, and when the madcap nature of the series is leaned into as hard as possible.

Not only is Ragnarok a perfectly uncompromised version of exactly what it was always meant to be, but it was mixed into with a little retro flair for good measure.  Looking, sounding and ultimately feeling like the Thor movie that they would have made in the 1980s — with the synth-pop vibe of movies like Tron and Flash Gordon — it never felt like a better fit for the space Viking and his magical hammer.  Throw in the Hulk and a drastically reimagined Valkyrie, and you have what is unquestionably one of the most original-feeling and overall best Marvel movies to date.

 

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