When you’re trapped with family, streaming has you covered
Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s weekly guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What’s new on Netflix and Amazon Prime? What do we recommend on Kanopy, Fandor, and Shudder? We’ve got it all. From monthly roundups, to curated top 5 lists, to reviews of our favorites available now… it’s here. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.
That time of year is here — the holidays. By now most people have had their fill of contending with in-laws, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and their respective offspring. Now that the football games and parades have dwindled down, everyone’s back from shopping and the leftovers are being made into other meals, it’s time to relax…sort of. Turkey day may be over, but some of those relatives from out of town are still lingering about, of which you yourself may be one. In any case, by now all the small talk has been exhausted and the remaining topics of conversation are either Christmas plans, politics, or what you’re gonna do with the rest of your life.
Luckily, we live in an age of streaming, where a variety of channels and platforms can offer up a whole mess of family entertainment which is as uncontroversial as it is universal. In this edition of Field of Streams, we offer up a handful of titles (most of which were originally released during past Thanksgivings) that serve as worthwhile time killers and genuine bonding experiences which will help a person get through the holidays with the ones they love…but after a couple of days, have very little to say to.
The granddaddy of all parodies remains just as hilarious decades later. A send-off of the successful Airport series (which essentially became a parody of themselves), this 1980 gem was as innovative as it was hilarious, telling the story of a damaged war veteran (Robert Hays) and his flight attendant girlfriend (Julie Haggerty) who must take control of a huge airliner full of passengers after its flight crew have been taken ill. Virtually every moment here is a stand-out, from Barbara Bel Geddes talking jive, to the two kids sharing coffee, to the frantic Mrs. Hammond proclaiming, “I’ve gotta get out of here!” If the box-office hit and future classic didn’t make names out of its two leads, it sure gave supporting players Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Robert Stack perhaps the most iconic roles of their careers as each one tears up the screen with their own comedy flavors. A hysterical classic now and forever.
MY GIRL (Crackle)
This Brian Grazer production got a lot of flack (not altogether undeserved) for the fate it gave the character played by child superstar Macaulay Culkin. The plot turn caused a well of tears across audiences all over the country who showed up in droves for the Thanksgiving release. That element aside, My Girl is the kind of family-gathering heartwarming piece of entertainment that’s easy to embrace. Anna Chlumsky plays Vada Sultenfuss, who, along with best friend Thomas J (Culkin), does everything she can to rise above life as the only child of a widowed owner of a funeral home (Dan Aykroyd). Besides providing one of the best uses of the iconic song which served as the movie’s title, My Girl tenderly and honestly looks at the complicated art of growing up and learning how to both embrace the parts of your life which feel unconventional and the scary changes that can happen when childhood comes to a close.
MOUSE HUNT (Hulu)
Essentially Home Alone with a mouse (oh look, another Culkin reference), 1997’s Mouse Hunt is as escapist and fun as they come. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans play a pair of brothers named Ernie and Lars Smuntz, respectively. When the two’s father dies, leaving them their old family estate, the pair believe selling the sought-after property will be the answer to their financial woes. However, the cute mouse who has resided in the manor for some time has decided he will do everything in his power to stop them in order to protect his home. Director Gore Verbinski’s feature film debut is more wildly fun than the straightforward plot description would lead one to believe. The filmmaker takes full advantage of winding staircases and secret passageways as he employs some very inventive camera moves when it comes to the comedic action pieces. Likewise, Mouse Hunt’s colors and set-ups are both artful and oddly humorous. Speaking of the humor, while Mouse Hunt may have been for the kids, plenty (and I mean, plenty) of subversive and macabre comedy touches turn up, which end up making the movie just a tad more racy than the average family holiday outing.
Many were looking forward to the re-teaming of director Baz Luhrman and actress Nicole Kidman in their second collaboration following 2001’s operatic Moulin Rouge. With Hugh Jackman cast in the male lead, Australia promised to be a sensational love letter to both artists’ native homeland. However, audiences didn’t know what to do with this tale of a British aristocrat (Kidman) who relocates to Australia to take over a large ranch she’s just inherited, earning criticism from most everyone save for a stock-man named Drover (Jackman). Australia is the kind of sprawling cinematic epic that’s glorious and involving, following in the tradition of other such staples as Giant and Hawaii. The camerawork is as glorious and masterful as they come thanks to Luhrman’s presence, while the landscape itself has never come off as more wondrous. There are quiet moments in Australia too that give off a lovely intimacy, such as the scene of Kidman trying to comfort an Aborigine child (Brandon Walters), and the tribute to the people of Australia as a whole (particularly the Aborigines themselves) makes this former pricey flop worth every minute.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Netflix)
This long-gestating sequel has taken its place in movie history as one of the most recent holiday releases with the longest gap of time between it and its original counterpart. The wait was worth it. The world’s most beloved magical British nanny returns to the screen as Mary Poppins (now played by Emily Blunt) has come back to help the Banks family find their mojo once again. Virtually every moment of Mary Poppins Returns feels like a family reunion of sorts as the audience finds themselves being re-introduced to one familiar character after another from the first movie. But times change; London is in a recession, Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) is now the one fighting for causes the way her mother once did, and there are a new set of Banks children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson) running around. Director Rob Marshall has a ball bringing to life the sequel original author P.L. Travers adamantly never wanted made, and it shows. The costumes and production design are sumptuous, and the collection of tunes retains the kind of whimsical merriment mixed with a sweet wisdom almost as indelible as the first.
There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? And, as always, if you’ve got thoughts on titles we’re missing out on or new services to check out, leave a comment below or email us.
Till next week, stream on, stream away.