The Amazon Prime Video catalog is growing by the month, and not only because a ton of old movies are jumping into the public domain. They’re getting their hands on Oscar and Emmy winners, along with an ever increasing selection of original programming. If you don’t have Amazon, now may be the time to consider signing up, if only because you’ve run out of documentaries and shows to watch on Netflix.
Across the Universe
Across the Universe really embraces its position as a movie set in the social revolution of the 60s. It explores drug culture, war, political and social upheaval, and love in a time of sexual freedom, all with the music, themes, and names of Beatles songs. In fact, this is closer to a film adaptation of The Beatles’ discography than a traditional movie. Certain songs are reframed to give new meaning or context to the lyrics, and by doing this, the songs’ protest elements are revitalized. Because of their upbeat, classic rock nature, people often forget that The Beatles had real talent for capturing the zeitgeist in their lyrics. Any Beatles fan, from casual to insane stalker, should watch this movie. Not only will you recognize the songs, but you’ll hopefully gain a new appreciation for them as the characters singing them get pulled through every sort of insanity the 1960s had to offer. Watch
American History X
Few movies have the power to stick with you the way American History X does. Anyone who’s watched it before knows, but for those of you who haven’t, we might recommend looking away for the “bite the curb” scene. The scene, as well as the whole movie, is violent, angry, and vulgar, but never feels over the top or gratuitous. That’s a line that can be hard to walk. Equally hard is getting the audience to sympathize with a neo-Nazi, especially after the hateful, racist crimes perpetrated by the guy. But there are aspects of redemption to the story, and the movie does what it can to tackle race relations with nuance. It doesn’t always succeed at that, and certain moments in the movie play more like contrived cinema than genuine human behavior, but the final result is a challenging look at the extent and pervasiveness of the relatively modern American white supremacist movement. Watch
In our opinion, there aren’t enough movies about Nazis doing weird stuff with the supernatural. The biggest example is obviously Indiana Jones, where, for some reason, Nazis think that they’re going to be able to weaponize the most important artifact of the people they just Kristallnachted. If the Jewish God was the true God, which He turns out to be, then why the hell would you think He was just going to roll over and give you a WMD? Similarly, what did they think could possibly happen if they were trying to summon demons from the underworld? Summoning Hellboy was only going to end one way, and that was with anywhere from dozens to thousands of dead Nazis. If anything, they got off easy. Watch
Judging from the posters, trailer, and plot summary, this should not be a movie we’d recommend. But this was directed by the same guy who made Layer Cake, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Kick-Ass, all of which were excellent movies. The last two were also made after this movie, but they retroactively validate its existence. If we had to compare, we’d say Stardust is closest to Kingsman since it hits some of the same distinctive humor. Think Samuel L. Jackson’s lisp compared to Robert DeNiro’s fashion designing pirate captain (similarly, both actors are clearly having a great time in their respective movies). Or the banter between secret agent and villain compared to the constant bickering of the prince’s ghost brothers. There are a few times the movie dips into some lovey-dovey stuff, but it was rarer than you’d think. Put it this way. When this movie first came out, there were definitely guys who came out of the theater liking it a lot more than the girls who’d dragged them there. Watch
Pablo Escobar is something of a fascination for modern Americans, especially in the wake of Narcos. But while that show focused more on the man, The Infiltrator looks at his operations. Back in the throes of “Just Say No,” federal drug enforcement was looking for a way to bust Escobar. To do so, they attempted to infiltrate his operation, working to get US agents into high ranking positions in Escobar’s cartel. Bryan Cranston plays the US Customs Agent who is tasked with getting himself as involved in the cartel as he can. The movie has a few hitches in it, as it only has two hours or so to explore one of the biggest drug rings in human history, but for the most part, it’s an entertaining, suspenseful story. Plus, John Leguizamo’s used pretty well, and he’s one of the more underrated actors working today. Watch
Most of our excitement for this one comes from the cast. This is Bryan Cranston again, and he’s pretty much always fun to watch. He’s a great actor that can melt into almost any role, so that’s enough for us to shake off some of the worry about this being an Amazon Original. If it wasn’t, Giovanni Ribisi is also in this, who you’ll recognize as the guy who carries every single scene he’s ever been in. His career has spanned almost every level of movie. He was in a blockbuster with Saving Private Ryan and Avatar, and slummed it in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’s been working since the 80s, so his filmography is longer than most actors working today. If there’s a team that can carry a show, it’s these two guys. As a bonus, the first episode is free on Amazon, even if you don’t have Prime. Watch
Swiss Army Man
You might know this movie as the one where Harry Potter’s corpse farts Paul Dano across the ocean. Well, if you saw those inexplicable commercials, the movie they were attached to was Swiss Army Man and it was weird. The central plot is a stranded survivor uses a dead body as a survival tool on his quest to get home. But the more we try to explain it, the more we have to say it’s something you just need to watch to fully understand what you’re getting into. Just know that it’s an odd, unique movie that definitely isn’t for everyone, but is worth everyone at least giving a shot. Watch
While you’re here, check out our picks for Netflix in January.