blow out

(Welcome to Now Stream This, a monthly column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)

Next month offers a wealth of options for movie fans of all tastes. How about a thriller from one of the greatest filmmakers of the past 50 years? How about an Oscar-winning drama that’s as good as you’ve heard? If you’re feeling especially adventurous, how about an English TV movie so scary that it’s hardly been seen in 25 years? We have all of this and more!

1. Blow Out

Streaming on FilmStruck May 3

Brian De Palma’s 1981 masterpiece Blow Out shows the filmmaker firing on all cylinders, creating a perfect film in the process. This is De Palma using every weapon in his arsenal: gorgeous split diopter shots, revealing split-screens, lengthy tracking shots, and themes of voyeurism. John Travolta plays a B-movie soundman who becomes an inadvertent “ear witness” to a political assassination when he ends up recording the audio of a car driven by a governor plunging off a bridge. Assisted by a woman (Nancy Allen) who was in the car with the dead governor, Travolta’s character tries to piece together the clues at his disposal to blow the lid off the conspiracy, all while being pursued by dangerous assassin (John Lithgow). Blow Out is always at a fever-pitch – the film seems to exist in a heightened state of excitement, and that excitement is infectious. Few films are as thrilling and watchable as this – it’s the perfect example of why De Palma is a master of the craft.

For fans of: The Conversation, Blow-Up, the Liberty Day parade.

2. A Simple Plan

Now streaming on Hulu; leaving 5/31

Sam Raimi may be known for his more over-the-top entries (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Drag Me to Hell), but one his very best films is this frosty 1998 neo-noir. Set during a snowy Minnesota winter, A Simple Plan stars the late, great Bill Paxton as Hank, a working- class guy living an average life with his pregnant wife (Bridget Fonda – remember her? Where did she go!?). One day Hank, his awkward brother Jacob (played by Billy Bob Thornton) and Jacob’s friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) are out hunting deep in the woods when they stumble upon a crashed airplane. There’s a dead man inside the plane – and a duffel bag containing $4.4 million. After some deliberation, the men decide to keep the money, and everything promptly goes very, very wrong. What follows is a chilling, twisty and surprisingly emotional thriller. This is Raimi at his most restrained; a slow-burn film with ice in its veins. Paxton is great as a good man who gets caught up in a terrible situation and Thornton gives one of the best performances of his career as Paxton’s troubled brother. A Simple Plan is currently on Hulu, but it’s leaving May 31 – so if you somehow missed this gem, get on it fast.

For fans of: Fargo, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Bill Paxton (that’s all of us, right?)

3. Ghostwatch

Now streaming on Shudder

In 1992, the BBC broadcast Ghostwatch on Halloween night and proceeded to scare the hell out of everyone. Done in a faux-documentary style, Ghostwatch is deceptively effective and was even more so for UK audiences since the special employed real-life, respected BBC newscasters. Presented as a special investigating a real haunted house in Northolt, Greater London, Ghostwatch starts off almost playfully before descending into nerve-jangling terror. One of the many clever ways Ghostwatch gets under your skin is by subliminally inserting ghostly apparitions into the backgrounds of scenes that aren’t supposed to be outwardly scary. The result is an unsettling, highly effective experience. Ghostwatch was so effective that the BBC actually banned it for a decade. Now, thankfully, we can watch it on Shudder.

For fans of: The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring 2, British ghosts.

4. Manchester by the Sea

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video 5/5

One of the few films that fully understands the language of grief, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) as he deals with the fall-out of the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler). Much to Lee’s shock and confusion, he’s been made the guardian of his late brother’s son (Lucas Hedges). As the film unfolds, Lonergan jumps around in time to reveal more and more about Lee and his troubled past. This occasionally jarring, non-linear editing from Jennifer Lame is one of the main reason’s Manchester by the Sea is so effective – the narrative never tips its hand too early. There’s plenty of sadness in Manchester by the Sea, but it’s not a dour weep-fest. In fact, the film is surprisingly hilarious at times due to some perfectly timed dark humor. Affleck, who won Best Actor for the role, is undeniably great in the film, although it might be hard to appreciate him in the role in light of the disturbing sexual harassment allegations against him.

For fans of: The Sweet Hereafter, The Big Chill, You Can Count On Me, wicked awesome New England accents.

5. Jackie Brown

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video 5/7

Quentin Tarantino followed-up Pulp Fiction with his most subdued, and perhaps underrated movie. Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, 1997’s Jackie Brown is a crime drama about suddenly realizing you’re too damn old. Blaxploitation icon Pam Greir is Jackie Brown, a stewardess who supplements her income by smuggling money in from Mexico for gun-runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). When Jackie gets caught with the money and some cocaine she was unaware she was even transporting, Jackie has to think fast. She can either sell-out Ordell, risk prison, or come up with a plan to net herself a serious payday. Tarantino specializes in the cinema of the cool, but Jackie Brown is a drabber, more run-down type of film, populated with characters who are past their prime. Robert De Niro is hilarious as Ordell’s shuffling, mumbling right-hand man; Bridget Fonda (hey, two Bridget Fonda movies in one column!) relishes every moment she has as a scheming beach bunny; and Robert Forster steals the entire film as a sympathetic bail bondsman who gets drawn into Jackie’s plan. Tarantino has made great movies since Jackie Brown, but he has yet to make a film quite as mature as this one.

For fans of: Coffy, Foxy Brown, Get Shorty, The Delfonics.

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