We’re living in the golden age of streaming content, but that comes with a significant catch.
Platforms deliver more content than at any other time in pop culture history, and some of it flat out stuns. Think “Breaking Bad,” “The Americans,” and “The Man in the High Castle” on the TV front alone.
The rest? Well, you have to sift through tons of mediocre fare, and worse, before you stumble upon the gold.
The same holds true for Amazon Prime. The Netflix competitor boasts a huge array of junk lurking within its content corridors.
To guide you through that maze, here are 9 titles (both films and TV productions) that didn’t get enormous publicity upon release. Some fared poorly at the box office. No matter. They’re all worth your time, easing the pain of our self-quarantining times.
Fighting with My Family: This 2019 charmer had everything – humor, heart, and a story based on a real-life success story. Add box office catnip Dwayne Johnson to the mix, and you’ve got a guaranteed hit … that nonetheless disappointed at the box office.
Rising star Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) plays Paige, a Brit whose family obsesses over professional wrestling. She and her brother try out for the WWE’s training program, hoping to become the next Rock, but only she makes the cut. Is she WWE material, or will her family’s dreams die with her? Johnson appears briefly in the film, but it’s Pugh who’s the main attraction.
The Descent Part 2: Most horror fans name check “The Descent” as one of the best modern horror movies, and for good reason. The little-seen sequel couldn’t measure up to the original, but so what? It’s still an action-packed return to the underground lair that meant doom for the original film’s heroines.
Final Girl Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) inexplicably returns to the scene of the crime where her old “friends” await, and they’re still famished. “Part 2” is a respectable sequel that banks on what made the source material so chilling – that sense of claustrophobia and those milky white creatures.
Escape at Dannemora: The true story behind the woman who helped two convicted murderers escape from a New York prison proved compelling on its own. What director Ben Stiller (yes, that Ben Stiller) fashioned from that material is one of the best limited series in recent memory.
That’s primarily thanks to Patricia Arquette and Benicio Del Toro, cast as the prison employee and convict enmeshed in the escape. Both are mesmerizing in their own ways, and co-star Paul Dano is nearly as impressive.
Stiller corrals these great performances, along with a palpable sense of a prisoner’s despair, for a sublime seven-part experience.
Blow the Man Down: Both Amazon Prime and Netflix deliver original movies to compete with first-run Hollywood fare. It doesn’t always end well, though – think Michael Bay’s unwatchable Netflix original “6 Underground.” This bleakly comic thriller is a welcome exception.
Two sisters living in a Maine fishing town cover up an accidental murder, but in doing so unearth their community’s deepest, darkest secrets. The great Margo Martindale steals the film as the town matriarch whose fingers touch both kindness and corruption.
Some critics compared “Down” to old-school Coen brothers fare. It’s not that good, but it does capture a hint of the duo’s coal black aesthetic.
Train to Busan: Sick of zombies yet? It’s hard not to be, given the flood of undead tales of late. The anti-Trump dud “The Dead Don’t Die” could have killed off the genre all by itself last year.
This South Korean import feels as fresh as 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.” A divorced dad attempts to reunite his daughter with her mother, but their trip is interrupted by a full-scale zombie outbreak. “Busan” peddles some left-wing talking points between the mayhem, but you won’t care given the ferocity of the zombies and relentless pacing. It’s the best zombie feature since “28 Days Later,” no questions asked.
Rise of Jordan Peterson: It’s bittersweet watching this balanced, thoughtful documentary today. Peterson’s health isn’t good, and it’s unclear if he’ll ever return to public life.
Still, this feature expertly captures his “Rise” along with his conflicting views on fame. It’s a sly character study and an essential watch for those eager to make him into a monster. He’s a man in full, and an impressive one given our woke age. Plus, the movie lets some of his harshest detractors speak without filter.
Warrior: Had this “Rocky” -esque tale hit theaters today, given its stars and MMA storyline, it might be a sensation. Nine years ago, it came and went without a trace.
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton star as estranged brothers who both gravitate to Mixed Martial Arts. Nick Nolte earned an Oscar nomination for playing their gruff Pa, adding another layer to the family dynamics in play.
The story’s template may feel familiar, but director Gavin O’Connor (“The Way Back”) makes every element soar.
The Last Stand: Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t a superstar by accident. He routinely teamed with first-rate directors (think James Cameron and Ivan Reitman) to enhance his A-list status. So when he resumed his film career in 2013 after playing California’s governor, he turned to little known director Kim Joe-woon for help. Schwarzenegger saw something in Jee-woon’s resume that suggested he could revive a dormant action career. He was both right and wrong.
“The Last Stand” is a hoot, a film that doesn’t ignore the star’s advancing years but leans on his stoicism and screen presence. The film bombed at the box office, though, the first hint that audiences had moved on from Ah-nold’s glory years. That doesn’t diminish the film’s ‘80s-style bona fides.
Bone Tomahawk: S. Craig Zahler’s reputation is growing, thanks to uncompromising fare like “Brawl in Cell Block 99” and the recent “Dragged Across Concrete.” His career began with this neo-western with more than a dash of horror thrown in.
Kurt Russell stars as a sheriff with the biggest, baddest mustache a man can carry. He’s tasked with retrieving two towns folk kidnapped by a cannibalistic tribe of Native Americans. That simple plot allows for some grotesque visuals, unabashed heroism, and ripe Western dialogue. It’s not for the squeamish, but those who miss classic westerns will see plenty of the genre’s DNA baked into this chilling tale.