With school back in the swing of things, work piling in and the weather cooling down, free movies and shows quickly become our best friends. Need a break from the grind? Looking for a more economical date night? Pull up a sofa, pop some popcorn and check out these recommendations you can stream right now on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Kids and Teens:
If you have kids you know anime is all the rage right now. And it beats the monotony of Disney channel sitcoms and the uber randomness of Comedy Central’s new line up. Netflix has a great selection of shows to get you started on what I’m sure will become a full time fascination (if it isn’t already).
Fairy Tail (Netflix) – A funny adventure series set in a world where you can apprentice to become a wizard if you want. It follows Lucy and her friends at the Fairy Tale Guild as they quest, compete, and every now and then, save the town from total destruction. Strong themes of loyalty, courage, hard work, and sacrifice make it a great conversation piece for after dinner and gives the show an emotional depth lacking in a lot of American cartoons.
Sword Art Online (Netflix) – You owe it to yourself to watch this show even if you don’t have kids. The adventure is gripping, the action is breathtaking. The story will break your heart, then mend it again. We follow Kirito, a 14-year-old with a deeply compassionate heart, and extreme social anxiety, who finds himself trapped in a virtual reality death game where the only way out is to beat all 100 levels. This high fantasy, Hunger Games-esque story, it is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced. Because of some mature themes, this show is more appropriate for teen viewers and older, but I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Comedy is serious business. And seriously—there are some great ones out there that are either premiering new seasons, or putting their best foot forward.
Portlandia (Netflix) – It’s fall flannel weather, and that means the zany antics of the hipsters, hippies, and granola connoisseurs have returned for Season 5. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein star as about a dozen different caricatures that poke fun at the hyper political correctness and free range, gluten free community snobbery that makes up hipsterdom in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you love or hate the hipster life, you’ll be glad you tuned in to this unconventional sketch comedy show.
The League (Netflix) – Football season is getting into gear and, sports fan or not, you will find this rowdy improv ensemble hilarious. Featuring Mark Duplass and Nick Kroll (and former USA beauty queen Katie Aselton—what do you know, looks and wit!), the show is semi-scripted, which means you are treated to improvised moments of brilliance in between the rehearsed lines throughout. It follows the fantasy football season of an eight team league as they work to balance life, family and football—not at all in that order. The 7th and final season just premiered on FXX, but you can catch all the previous seasons on Netflix.
Club De Quervos (Netflix) – If subtitles make you feel smarter but you still love a ridiculous storyline, this black comedy might be right up your alley. A Mexican football team owner dies suddenly, leaving the beloved team, stadium, and franchise to his playboy eldest son. Things do not proceed pleasantly. The show follows the family feud that ensues between the incompetent brother who loves the celebrity and hates the work, the business maven sister who scorns his laziness (and is in turn scorned by all the men in the office), and the apparently pregnant mistress who “loved” their father just enough to insert herself into his will.
Alpha House (Amazon Prime) – If you thought the US Republican Presidential debate was a great show, imagine a bunch of witty comedy writers teamed up with a team of talented comics to bring you a fictionalized (and even funnier) take on the conservative side of DC. That’s what you’re in for with Alpha House with John Goodman. Catch up on the first two seasons before the third one drops later this year.
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to break out the scary movies. I’m normally not a fan of slashers and gore porn, but there are some classics new and old that deserve a watch this season.
Anything Wes Craven (Netflix) – Nightmare on Elm Street, New Nightmare, and all three Scream movies are on Netflix right now. The world lost Craven this August, so it only seems right that this Halloween be filled with his creations. The Nightmare movies may be campy and dated, but they are the original teen summer horror movies, and they still stand up if you can get past the predictable storylines. If that’s not your thing, the Scream franchise probably is. Self-aware and self-deprecatory, they entertainingly deconstruct the formula Craven himself pioneered with the Nightmare movies.
The Babadook (Netflix) – If you fear monsters under your bed, this movie will really get your heart rate pumping. The story centers on a mother and son struggling after the violent death of the boy’s father. The boy is certain that the Babadook, a monster from a mysterious book, is coming to kill them both. Driven by exhaustion to waking nightmares, the mother soon finds it impossible to ignore the things that go bump in the night. Essie Davis’ performance as the mother and Noah Wiseman as her 6-year-old son alone are reason enough to make this one worth your time. When combined with beautiful cinematography, powerful writing, and masterful sound design, you have a movie that’s truly deserving of its 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Hot Fuzz (Netflix) – Not exactly traditional horror, but Brit comedy super duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are in fine form for this film. It puts the funny first, but also stands up as a great, hilariously gory murder mystery. We follow Police Constable Nicholas Angel (Pegg), who is transferred out of fast-paced London into a quiet town in the English countryside with a murder problem. The script manages to take pot shots at suburbia, cop movies, and accidental death movies like Final Destination. Chris Dickens, the editor for the film, went on to receive the Oscar for best editing in Slumdog Millionaire. I don’t normally recommend movies just based off of editing, but this one I could.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil (Netflix) – You know that moment in the movie when the girl is like, “Hey, let’s all go play hide and seek in the haunted slaughterhouse.” And there’s no one who thinks this might be a bad idea? Backwoods hillbillies Tucker and Dale basically provide that voice of reason to the group of horror trope teens camping on their land. When The Blonde One almost drowns, and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) saves her life, Blondie’s boyfriend convinces the rest of the group that the two, well-meaning hicks are serial killers out to get the kids. Dark hilarity ensues as the teens accidentally off themselves one by one, and Tucker and Dale take the blame while desperately try to save them.
Critically Acclaimed Awesomeness You Might Have Missed:
Nightcrawler (Netflix) – I’m actually not going to spoil anything about this startling, creepy, profound crime drama. It’s an incredible performance on the part of Jake Gyllenhaal. Don’t look up anything about the story. Don’t read any reviews. Just watch this movie in the dark.
Seven Psychopaths (Amazon Prime) – With a star-packed cast, this quirky, meta black comedy is about a boozer writer trying to finish his movie about seven psychopaths. When his friend kidnaps a local gangster’s pet Shih Tzu, he finds all the inspiration he needs for the killers in his fictional world. There are some odd moments with the story structure, but it’s a great character piece featuring Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and more.
About Elly (Netflix) – This internationally decorated film is a fascinating look at life in Iran through the lense of a character driven mystery. A group of friends led by Sepedeh (portrayed by the talented Golshifteh Farahani) rent a seaside cabin together in order to introduce their last single friend to a potential wife. When the mysterious girl goes missing they find that she was not who they thought she was, and Sepedeh finds herself in a tangle of lies to preserve the girl’s honor.
Orphan Black (Amazon Prime) – The sci-fi mystery is fast-paced, cleverly acted and incredibly fun to watch. Somewhere between Alias and The Pretender, the series centers around Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), a hustler trying to get her life on track so she can care for her little girl. When she witnesses the suicide of someone who looks exactly like her, Sarah steals the woman’s identity to try and get a leg up—but finds herself tumbling down a whole new rabbit hole of trouble.
Transparent (Amazon Prime) – Complicated, heartbreaking, nuanced. It’s a hard show to watch in some ways, but it tells an incredibly important story for our time. Jeffrey Tambor plays Maura Pfefferman, a trans-woman struggling to reconnect with her grown kids through the transition. At its heart, the show is about selfishness and love. If you enjoyed The Kids are Alright, this series will be right up your alley. Catch up on Season 1 before Season 2 drops on December 1.