There aren’t a ton of new smashes coming to Amazon Prime this month. “Nerve,” the cellphone app thriller starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco (arriving July 1), is actually good, though! But what they lack in movies you’ve already seen recently, they more than make up for in classics — including some actual old school classics.
Here’s a pittance of the huge movie dumping coming to the other big streaming service in July, which actually outshines the one coming to Netflix. All release dates are July 1 unless otherwise noted:
Along with “Nerve,” there’s “Miss Sloane” (July 19), the Jessica Chastain movie that no one much saw last year, despite it being the kind of “adult drama” they Just Don’t Make Anymore. We found this thinking person’s thriller — in which Chastain plays a lobbyist who goes after gun rights — to be a little too stupid, frankly, despite being gussied up in grown-ups’ clothes. Still, cherish a modern movie with big stars tackling the issues, and in a way that’s somehow non-preachy.
We do enjoy “Chef” (July 28), though, in which director Jon Favreau not only takes a break from huge movies (like “Iron Man” and “The Jungle Book” and, er, “Cowboys & Aliens”), but steps back in front of the camera for what’s now a rare leading role. He plays a disgraced chef who gets his mojo back by opening a traveling food truck soon legendary for their Cubano sandwiches. It’s fleet and funny, but most importantly, it has tons of amazing-looking food. We like food. And so we like Jon Favreau’s “Chef.”
One of last year’s very best films also makes its streaming debut. It’s “The Salesman” (July 6), the latest from the peerless Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation,” “The Past”). You might know the name because it made headlines: When Trump first tried to get his “Muslim ban” through courts, it would have meant Farhadi, who lives in Iran, would be unable to collect what turned out to be an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Even when the order was stayed, Farhadi refused to attend out of protest. The ban’s newly back on, but don’t let the news overshadow the film itself — another devastating Farhadi masterwork, about a theater director who slowly implodes after his wife is assaulted by a stranger.
We hope this isn’t an unpopular opinion: “Bull Durham” is the greatest movie about baseball ever made. It even stars Kevin Costner, star of “Field of Dreams,” which is the incorrect choice. Sports journo-turned-filmmaker Ron Shelton packs the film with details that betray his former career. And where most baseball movies are about big stars, “Bull Durham” is about the Minors, focusing on people barely eking by, wrestling with the notion that they made never hit the big time. Speaking of the Great American Pasttime, there’s also “Eight Men Out,” John Sayles’ very John Sayles-y (read: smart and talky and exhaustively researched) account of the 1921 “Chicago Black Sox” scandal, in which one of the most thoughtful American independent filmmakers gets a terrific performance out of Charlie Sheen.
To boldly go where you’ve probably gone before
There are nine — count ’em, nine — “Star Trek” movies hitting Amazon. And none of them are part of the new reboot, which has turned Gene Roddenberry’s brainy space opera into mindless blockbusters. As Roger Ebert said, when it comes to the original movies, it’s usually the even numbers that turn out the best. So go with “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” the disarmingly funny “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and the tense “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”
Give the much-loathed 'The Assignment' a chance
One of the worst reviewed movies of 2017 is “The Assignment,” and not for no reason: It’s about a hitman who enacts revenge after a mad scientist (Sigourney Weaver) kidnaps him and forcibly gives him a gender reassignment. (He/she’s played by Michelle Rodriguez.) Yes, it sure does sound transphobic. But a closer look at this grimy B-movie reveals that it’s not scared of anything, and is actually quite satirical about the terrible, sexist men who give Rodriguez a hard time. It’s also the latest from Walter Hill, one of the kings of genre movies. As it happens, a Hill classic we can all agree is great with zero qualifications, “48 Hrs.”, also appears on Amazon. (As does its far lesser sequel, the exhaustingly titled “Another 48 Hrs.”)
Is “Braveheart” a classic? It’s only 22 years old. Perhaps it feels older. It was made at a time that feels decades ago: back when we all loved Mel Gibson. He’s sort of back now; the success of “Hacksaw Ridge” has scored him a key role in “Daddy’s Home 2.” But even one of his biggest films, the one that nabbed the Best Picture Oscar, is all about Mad Mel’s favorite topics: oppression, salvation and suffering.
Far as truly old movies go, there’s “Manhattan,” our pick for second best Woody Allen movie, and not after “Annie Hall.” (We’re “Love and Death” people.) “Rosemary’s Baby” is particularly fun if you watch it having never heard of the famous twist, while “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is always worth your three hours. Speaking of Westerns, one of the weirdest specimens is “Johnny Guitar,” Nicholas Ray’s gender-flipped oater from 1954, in which the hero is a woman (Joan Crawford) and so is the bad guy (a nightmarishly lit-up Mercedes McCambridge).
Back in the early aughts, no one believed us when we said “Pootie Tang” was great. It tanked. It was dismissively reviewed. It disappeared. But a handful of us insisted this sketch comedy movie spinoff — for Lance Crouther’s belt-snapping, made-up-vernacular-spouting hero — was a deeply sarcastic comedy masterpiece — so thoroughly weird that it was also lensed by the guy who shot Jean-Luc Godard’s “Masculine-Feminine.” Years later, its writer-director, one Louis C.K., became a kind of folk hero. So if you haven’t seen what C.K. was up to long before he turned the cameras on his own shlubby life, now’s the time.
If you’re like us, you’ve been mourning the unexpected passing of director Jonathan Demme by binge-watching his greats: “Stop Making Sense,” “Something Wild,” “The Silence of the Lambs.” His attempt at a nice studio comedy, “Married to the Mob,” is one of his greats, too. A never-better Michelle Pfeiffer, pouting through an endearingly broad Brooklyn accent, plays a widowed mafia wife trying to go straight. Even when making a movie about killers, Demme’s goofy humanity shines through like a beacon from a lighthouse.
Lastly, we’re embarrassed to say we’ve never seen “Elephant,” Alan Clarke’s infamous 1989 TV movie. Gus Van Sant swiped the title for his 2003 Palme d’Or winner loosely based on Columbine, and word is Clarke’s film is even rougher. Lasting only an hour, it shows one murder after another, each presented without context but clearly a reaction to the Troubles in Ireland at the time. It’s the opposite of Amazon-Prime-and-chill, but sometimes you shouldn’t be chilling.