As Netflix and Disney+ continue to rake in audience share with their often eclectic mix of offerings (popcorn pictures often share the queue with much more low budget fare), Amazon Prime is a force to be reckoned with as well. Gifted to many users as part of their Amazon Prime/2 day shipping package, users are given a bevy of original and unoriginal content to chose from. Given Amazon's humble beginnings as a bookseller (do you even remember those days?), it isn't surprising that offerings from Amazon Studios have taken a more literary/artsy tone with some of their releases. Some examples of this are Manchester by the Sea, The Big Sick and Chi-Raq.
With so many options for content to stream it isn't surprising that we get overwhelmed. Every day a new service pops up offering original programming and other special perks for us get our streaming fix. There are only so many hours in the day, we can't watch everything, and that is precisely why we need lists to separate out what is and isn't worth our time. So with the new year in full swing, sit back and enjoy this curated list of the 7 movies on Amazon Prime you should make time for.
Starring Adam Driver as Daniel J. Jones, he portrays a senate worker that looks at government service as the highest of callings. When he's given the job by his boss (Annette Bening) to look into the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program after 9/11, what he finds is shocking, startling, and sadly, true. With a superb cast that includes Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, Maura Tierney and others, The Report is like the great investigative movies of the 1970s and 80s. With subject matter that is both far and near from us, the film hangs itself on Driver as a character who has idealistic viewers shattered and then has to pic up the pieces. Amazon Prime may not have the allure that Netflix does, but it's content is no less intriguing and bingeable. The Report is proof positive of that.
To Catch a Thief
There is a saying that if you lay down with dog's you're gonna get fleas. In this brilliant mystery/thriller from Alfred Hitchcock, Carey Grant plays John Robie, a debonair jewel thief who has left that racket. Or, has he? Someone is going around impersonating his former line of work, and he has to figure out who it is before the crimes get hung on him. Set in the French Riviera, Hitchcock has great fun concocting this story that is filled with twists and turns. With more than solid support from Grace Kelly, who is roped in to help Robie stay out of the clink, To Catch a Thief sizzles in every frame. With so much of today's television offerings filling themselves with twists and turns, it's refreshing to see a movie that doesn't have to extend itself into multiple episodes and seasons just to get to a cliffhanger for another episode.
Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird is a deceptively simple and not so simple story of Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) trying to find her place in an ever confusing world. Set in 2002, she longs to leave her tiny town in Sacramento and journey to places that are brimming with more art and culture. Set during her last year of high school, we follow Lady Bird as she comes of age in many unexpected ways. We witness her first love, her involvement in a high school play, but more than anything we see her yearning to get out from under the thumb of her domineering mother (Laurie Metcalf). There relationship is the most urgent one in the movie. We know they love each other, they've got each other's backs, but they've just reached a point where they can't live together any longer. While not an Amazon Original, Lady Bird feels right at home on the streaming giant.
Bob Balaban's very dark comedy from 1989 features superb performances from it's entire cast. Set in the 1950s, Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt play two prototypical parents who have nothing if not an odd relationship with their son (Bryan Madorsky). He is different from them, yet, he has paternal/maternal attachment, and he also suspects that they may be up to some very, very odd things. This film has a long "are they or aren't they bad people" arc, but the light it is cast in makes even their shockingly revealed nature seem not so out of the ordinary. Parents is a deftly put together film that shies away from nothing, even if it doesn't reveal everything the audience may expect or suspect. Rather, as all great black comedies do, it shines a light onto human nature and, in the process of not removing it, allows it to become blinding. Truly, one of the lost classics of the 80s and one that Amazon Prime is better for having.
A Simple Favor
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is your prototypical, 21st century parent. She puts up parenting videos on her vlog, she dotes over her children, and she lives in a world where everything has (and is in) its place. Contrast this with the more wealthy Emily (Blake Lively). She plays things very close to the vest, isn't nearly as involved with her child, and then surprises nobody when she goes missing. However, Stephanie can't let this go and what follows is a game of cat and mouse in which, every time Stephanie thinks she's discovered something, she's left with more questions. A Simple Favor is one of those films that is imminently watchable and re-watchable. It's filled with great dialogue, detailed characters, and a pace that literally screams, "Catch me if you can!"
You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Pheonix is channeling many iconic, cinematic anti-heroes in this layered character study from director Lynne Ramsey We Need to Talk About Kevin. As the character of Joe, Pheonix plays a very effected man, who has lived through the horrors of war. He channels this into his current job as a bounty hunter of missing girls. With nerves of steal he unflinchingly (but not willingly) isn't afraid to enter any situation in order to see his job through. What transpires is a headfirst descent into the underbelly of our society, in which even a character as hardened as Joe can't come out unfazed. Amazon Studios truly isn't afraid of dark and/or controversial material. They are consistently taking chances on movies like this and in the process making this present age of sterling content shine a even brighter.
How does one describe this oddball, horror gem from director Ari Aster (Midsommar}? On the face of it, Hereditary is about a family (led by Toni Collette's Annie character) that is grieving the loss of their grandmother. What unfolds is a horrific tale of psychosis that ultimately proves itself not to be psychosis at all. That, more than anything is what makes Hereditary the shockingly spectacular film that it is. Part character study, put expose, this film asks questions about life, death, and just what it means to a part of a family history. Giving us Annie, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and Peter (Alex Wolff) as 4 very distinct characters, that only serves to up the stakes of this story as their lives each start to individually unravel. So how might one describe Hereditary? Part horror movie? A thriller with horror elements? Or, is it enough to say it's simply one of the more interesting movies you're going to spend time streaming on Amazon Prime.