For as much as we’ve been covering “alternative” streaming services over the past couple of weeks — Hulu, Amazon, Shudder, Filmstruck, Kanopy — it’s high time that we get back to the basics. It’s time to get back to the monthly comings and goings of everybody’s standby streaming service: Netflix.
And, as seems to be the case every month, a whole crop of great movies and TV series find themselves on the butcher’s block. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and Michael Clayton (2007) are just some of the must-see movies that there wasn’t even enough room to talk about here among even better, higher-profile programming getting the boot in July.
Before Midnight (2013)
While I have spoken to the high heavens about my love for the slice-of-life filmography of celebrated writer-director Richard Linklater in the past, it warrants repeating again here. And while he is deservedly remembered for the coming of age drama Dazed and Confused (1993), the decade-spanning Boyhood (2014) and the life-in-motion portrayals of Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), his magnum opus is undoubtedly the Before trilogy, tracking the rise, climax and fall of a single relationship across three peerless movies: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013).
Although confounding and frustrating in a great many ways, these films never fail to feel authentic, lived-in and tirelessly compelling. Each delicately straddles the line between ambiguity and satisfaction: both resisting and driving toward some semblance of closure. Nowhere is this more evident than in the latest (although allegedly not final) film in the franchise, which pulls the rug out from a relationship that viewers have literally invested themselves in for decades. It is a challenging film (in terms of the anti-Hollywood narrative that it revels in), but no less rewarding nor worthy than either of the preceding entries.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
With as often as complaints about the lack of hard-hitting, R-rated action movies make the rounds on the internet, I’m surprised that this isn’t causing more of a stir. Not only the third, but the second, third and fourth movies in this storied buddy cop franchise — from back when loving Mel Gibson wasn’t immediately followed by an asterisk — are all getting shed from the streaming service in July. And while I would love to talk about all of these movies, the first is really emblematic for why a last-minute marathon might be in order before they all disappear from view.
Written by Shane Black — the writer-driector behind Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Iron Man 3 (2013), The Nice Guys (2015) and the upcoming The Predator — it is a wickedly intelligent film. Not only does it invert the unfortunate racial expectations of its characters for the time, with a loose-canon white cop pairing up with a family man black cop, but it treats both of them with the same level of weight and consideration regardless of who’s personal storylines better intersect with the action-packed plot of the case that they’ve been assigned to. Car chases, shootouts, fist-fights and the like are all at the forefront of this film, and are shown off in rare form to boot, so action junkies will still have more than enough set pieces to sink their teeth into along the way.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
When discussing the AFI list of the 100 best American-made movies, I’ve confessed to not really caring for Woody Allen all that much. Even ignoring his tumultuous public persona and necessarily uncomfortable personal history, I just never found him all that great of a filmmaker to begin with. Annie Hall (1977) is just a bog-standard romantic comedy that is outstripped by similar genre entries like (500) Days of Summer (2009). What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) is basically just another episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. And so many others simply range from “decent” to “okay.”
The one exception to this, in my mind, is 2011’s surprisingly poignant Midnight in Paris. It was a fun, fantastical and confidently intelligent character study in which its protagonists slip between different time periods to strip the rosy veneer from nostalgia and reveal half-forgotten truth just underneath the surface. It featured a great ensemble cast, an insightful script and Allen’s piecing vision for human behavior (and, in particular, human failings). For the otherwise unindoctrinated — or for those tired of Allen’s more celebrated works — this is a definite must-see.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
As I’ve said many times before on this site, I’m just not that big a fan of comedies. More so than other genres, I find them formulaic, trite and extraordinarily hit-or-miss. At the same time, though, I love to laugh and will indulge in any opportunity to do so. So whenever I find a comedy that I actually like, I tend to latch onto it pretty hard.
Tropic Thunder is one such comedy: a howling good time at the movies following the haphazard efforts of a group of mismatched actors trying to shoot an action-packed successor to the likes of Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Full Metal Jacket (1987). It’s a riotously funny movie, that plays fast and loose not only with its own premise, but with an “insider baseball” understanding of the film industry (giving a lot more material to viewers aware of the personalities that they are spoofing during its runtime).
V for Vendetta (2005)
This send-up of the diametrically opposed ideologies of fascism and anarchy has earned a fairly mixed reputation by both movie-goers and fans of the graphic novel on which it’s based. Accused of hijacking an inherently British story to act as a stand-in for inherently American anxieties over the then-reigning Bush administration, of filing its nuanced take on both its protagonists and antagonists until it resembled a standard heroe’s narrative and of simply not living up to its own boundless potential, there’s a reason why it’s begun slipping from the minds of the public in the decade plus since its release.
Despite all of these (perfectly valid) criticisms, however, it remains a great example of the dystopic, action-revenge and pseudo-superhero genres. Its casting is impeccable, its visuals inspired and its story — however hampered it may be relative to its source material — is genuinely riveting. It’s a good movie, even if it doesn’t quite nail it as an adaptation, and doesn’t deserve the blind eyes it’s gained in recent years.