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 stuff to watch on Netflix. Here are the 9 best things coming to Amazon Prime Video this month.
I Went Down
We’ve had a long running quest to see every movie Brendan Gleeson has made and we have to say, we’re doing pretty well. We’re up to date on most of his bigger work, blockbusters and the like. Now we’re getting into the smaller Irish movies. There are way more of those than blockbusters and we’re beginning to suspect that the Irish can’t make a movie without having Gleeson at least cameo, though he often gets a much bigger part. I Went Down is among his earlier works, coming out twenty years ago this year. It’s about a Dublin based kingpin sending two men on a retrieval mission down in Cork. Most of the action takes place in small towns or in the countryside, giving the movie an almost surreal quality, as these are places you associate with poets, not gangsters. Also a reason you should see it is, this is Conor McPherson’s first feature length screenplay. McPherson is one of Ireland’s more prominent playwrights, which is where you may have heard of him already. His play The Weir got a lot of traction in America and has made the rounds at different theaters, both Irish and not. He’s a great writer who brings some fresh energy and ideas to an otherwise well-worn genre. Watch
Into the Wild
There’s a popular interpretation of this movie and its written predecessor that we’d like to caution you against. That’s the one of using Christopher McCandless as a sort of spiritual leader. There’s no doubt this is a good movie, just don’t come to it looking for guidance. Cracked has gone into a lot more detail than we have space for, but the gist of it is, know the story, but learn the right things from it. If you use the movie or book to plan a hike mirroring McCandless’s, you’re as likely as him to end up dead. Which he does. Instead, take it as a cautionary tale about both American capitalism and the complete abandonment of it. Being fully into either side is dangerous, so make sure you fall somewhere in the middle. Watch
Based solely on the title, we thought this was a movie about the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge and their time in Bastogne. Turns out it’s a movie about a guy who puts goat testicles in people. Better yet, it’s a documentary about a guy who puts goat testicles in people. Back in the Depression, Dr. John Romulus Brinkley pioneered a “cure” for impotence. Thousands of people got in on the cure, often supplying their own goats. Naturally, Brinkley got rich off his procedure, and he used his fortune to be elected Governor of Kansas, build the world’s most powerful radio station, invent the infomercial, and party. It’s a one hundred percent true story, presented in a way that retains the educational aspects of a documentary, but eschews the drier, sometimes boring, tone of the genre. Instead, we’re given a wildly entertaining comedic look at the public’s obsession with snake oil cures.
And before you go ridiculing everyone who fell for the procedure, the director wanted to make sure you understood exactly who’s being made fun of in the documentary. Everyone falls for things like this, and they do mean everyone. Think about the rise of the “superfood” or that Bowflex you bought. Everyone’s looking for a quick and easy fix to their problems, they just aren’t usually as obviously hilarious as goat testicles. Watch
For a country of immigrants, the United States is super weird about immigration, especially when it comes to the Mexican border. That tension is what forms the basis for Hostile Border. Claudia is a young, undocumented Mexican woman who’s arrested by the FBI and deported. She moves in with her father, whom she’s had very little contact with since she was raised in the United States and speaks no Spanish. She’s a classic example of the kind of illegal immigrant more and more people want to protect, being that the only difference between her and an American citizen is the citizen part. It’s not her fault that she’s illegal, the only culture she’s known is American culture, and deporting her would be like sending everyone named Tony back to Italy. It’s just going to cause more problems than it solves and there’s a huge language and cultural barrier present when they get there. Watch
The Americans – Season 4
Another season of The Americans appearing on Amazon Prime gives us another opportunity to remind everyone that this is a show they should be watching. It centers around two insanely deep cover Soviet spies operating in America. What sets them apart from other spies stories is their family life. They’re expected to have a fully functioning, well-adjusted family despite their internationally objectionable occupation. That means children, schooling, religion, and a complicated sex life, all while attempting to rob Reagan’s America of its secrets. In fact, the show’s designed more as an exploration of marriage than of espionage, a specific and deliberate choice made by creator Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer. Weisberg wanted to explore the dynamic he heard about in real world spy families, and what came of it was The Americans. Watch
Author: The JT Leroy Story
There’s some reassurance in the fact that people can still get away with a good con, even as the age of information starts to take hold. JT LeRoy, as the alter ego of author Laura Albert and personified by her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop, is in that vein of great long cons. Although, we are a little reluctant to actually describe JT LeRoy as a “con.” The character was more Albert’s experiment with tone than deceitfully motivated confidence trick. Whatever the motivation, LeRoy’s basic conceit was, he was a reclusive, damaged boy from West Virginia and the writer of short stories and a novel. The problem emerged when LeRoy began to take off as a celebrity, his public image expanded, and Albert didn’t know how to stop any of it. The documentary takes the audience from the beginning of LeRoy to the end, with Albert herself going step by step through the short life of the fictional author. For those of us who remember the incident, we’ll finally get the whole story in one complete picture and for those of us who don’t, it still looks like a great journey through the kind of thing that doesn’t seem possible in the age of the internet. Watch
10 Cloverfield Lane
It’s not that we aren’t fans of Cloverfield. It’s just that it didn’t do anything significant for us. We were entertained, but we couldn’t tell you anything about it. That’s why we were so surprised by 10 Cloverfield Lane. We expected it to be an unremarkable movie about aliens. Instead we got a tense, claustrophobic bunker movie, with superb acting, a tightly written script, and actual stakes. Where Cloverfield went for spectacle over impact, 10 Cloverfield Lane basically ignores spectacle and goes straight for emotion. Normally we’d be giving you details about the plot right now, but the story is so well structured that it’d be nearly impossible to tell you anything without spoiling something, and this is a movie you don’t want to know anything about before watching. Watch
There’s a bit of a funny coincidence in Into the Wild and Captain Fantastic coming to Amazon Prime in the same month. Both are about being living in the wilderness, cut off from most of what makes living in American society dangerous, at least in their protagonists’ eyes. The difference is, the family in Captain Fantastic actually knows what they’re doing. Though Captain Fantastic is a bit of a reversal, as the family finds out they’re woefully unprepared for life in regular society. In most ways, that poses a lot less physical danger to the ignorant. There’s also the question of whether or not that’s really true for these kids, and, depending on your viewpoint, there is room for debate. Watch
Havana Motor Club
Reestablishing diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba is potentially the most positive news to come out of North America since Europe decided its time colonizing the continent was over. Cigars and rum are only the beginning of what promises to be an exciting opportunity for both Cuba and the United States. Havana Motor Club is a great start to the reintroduction of Cuban and American culture, giving Americans a great look into one of the more important aspects of Cuban society. Underground racing, despite its illegality, has been a fixture of Cuba for a hundred years, if not more, and Cubans are now fighting to legalize the sport. The documentary follows different racers in the quest to legitimize their passion in the eyes of the law, giving Americans a more personal Cuban stories than we’ve had in decades. Watch
While you’re here, check out our picks for Netflix in February.