Before you turn on your television, iPad or laptop this weekend and drown in movie options, The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz presents a handful of streaming bets that are worth your coveted downtime – even though they might make you miss the theatre more than you already do.
Jurassic Park, Netflix
Although the current talking point from Hollywood is that theatres will be ready to open by July, every day brings increasing skepticism toward that notion, especially if we’re talking about multiplexes in big urban centres such as Toronto. But just because COVID-19 is wiping away the 2020 summer movie season doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in summer movie seasons of yore. Hence, this week’s guide to the best – re: the most escapist – films to have dominated years past.
First up is Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic, which changed the way audiences and studios think about the yearly movie calendar almost as much as the director’s iconic thriller Jaws did back in 1975. If you haven’t seen Jurassic Park since it came out, there’s no better time to relive this thrilling, funny, tense and very-smart-but-also-just-as-stupid blockbuster. Nearly three decades and four sequels later (with a fifth coming whenever movies are allowed to be made again), it’s clear that with Jurassic Park, Spielberg perfected the art of the summer pop-blockbuster.
Top Gun, Amazon Prime Video
Right about now, we should all be enjoying whatever sky-bound silliness Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski conjured with the decades-late sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. Maybe we’ll get the chance this winter, which is when studio Paramount punted the film. But for a sure adrenalin bet, Amazon Prime Video has director Tony Scott’s jaw-dropping 1986 original ready to fly, and a recent rewatch confirms it is gloriously stupid. And that’s meant as a high compliment.
This 2011 summer hit should have made Kristen Wiig the world’s reigning comedy star. But for myriad reasons – her steadfast refusal to make a sequel, her more idiosyncratic follow-up films – that honour instead went to her Bridesmaids co-star Melissa McCarthy. No matter. With the fate of the big-screen comedy genre in doubt now more than ever, it’s a good time to look back at what happens when the exact right talent collaborates at the exact right moment. Director Paul Feig and performers Wiig, McCarthy, Rose Bryne, Maya Rudolph and Jon Hamm are at the collective height of their comedic powers here – and that wedding-shop scene is still one for the ages.
Fast & Furious saga, Netflix
Starting June 3, Netflix has delivered a wonderfully stupid, NOS-fuelled gift to Canadian audiences: it is now the streaming home for all eight Fast & Furious films (alas, not including last year’s spinoff, Hobbs & Shaw, which can be found on Crave). Perhaps this is a gift directed solely to me, though, as I try to break my own record for how many times I can mention one film in The Globe and Mail (currently, the F&F series is tied with the comedy Game Night, for those keeping score at home).
Either way, soothe your hurt feelings over the ninth film being delayed by revisiting all the other Vin Diesel-led shenanigans. And if you’d prefer to not watch the series in chronological order, here’s the definitive ranking, from best to worst: Fast Five, Furious 7, Fast & Furious 6, Fate of the Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Fast & Furious.
Death Proof, Kanopy
In the halcyon days of 2007, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez dared to ask audiences to go back to the scuzzy days of the grindhouse, where the movies where as cheap as the pop, and as grimy as the floors. The experiment didn’t work, though Tarantino’s contribution – a serial-killer thriller that is capped off with a gripping car chase – holds up quite well, in terms of propulsive summer fun. Plus: Kurt Russell twists the knife deep into his own history of charismatic lead performances to deliver what might be the role of his career: a charming stunt driver who is also a stone-cold psychopath.
Captain America: Civil War, Disney+
Made just before the Marvel Cinematic Universe got too big and zeitgeist-dominating for its own good with Avengers: Infinity War and the execrable Endgame, MCU mainstays and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo delivered solid, summer-ready entertainment with this Captain America sequel. With its well-choreographed action, movie-star-laden charm, and sharp sense of wit, MCU’s 13th and maybe last, genuinely great production. A shiny and immensely attractive work of pop art that acknowledges the obligations of the genre without wallowing in cynicism or cash-grab stunts, Civil War feels more like a gleeful diversion than a corporate obligation.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.