The Crown: Season 1 is the most ambitious original series from Netflix to date, and certainly its most expensive. The historical drama is set in the heart of British royalty in 1947 as Elizabeth (Claire Foy), newly married to the Duke of Edinburgh (Matt Smith), is suddenly elevated the throne as the Queen of England when her father unexpectedly dies. It’s written and produced by Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen and the 2013 play The Audience (both of which starred Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth), and the first episode is helmed by three-time Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), and co-stars John Lithgow co-stars as Winston Churchill. And while it is lavish, it is also intimate and nuanced.
“This may not be one to binge-watch quite so rapidly as other Netflix offerings – crown, state and church favour small, subtle nudges of each other and loaded silences, rather than loaded guns and pile-driver plots, which doesn’t exactly make the pace sluggish, but it does mean that one or two episodes at a time feels plenty,” writes Guardian TV critic Lucy Mangan. “Netflix can rest assured that its £100m gamble has paid off. This first series, about good old British phlegm from first to last, is the service’s crowning achievement so far.”
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Bad Moms lets Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Christina Applegate escape the kids and let loose for a night of R-rated antics.
Also new: the true-life World War II thriller Anthropoid about the mission to kill Reinhard Heydrich (R), the family comedy Nine Lives with Kevin Spacey as a housecat (PG), the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! about the celebrated soul singer (not rated), and the tongue-in-cheek Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, an animated feature in the style of the 1960s TV series (PG).
Available same day as select theaters nationwide is the comedy My Dead Boyfriend with Heather Graham on an odyssey of self-discovery while disposing of her boyfriend’s ashes (R). Also new: the black comedy Trash Fire from director/star Adrian Grenier (R), the horror film The Charnel House (not rated), the western Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story, and the mixed martial arts documentary The Hurt Business (not rated).
Foreign affairs: Zhang Yimou’s Hero (2002) is a lavish martial arts epic with Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Zhang Ziyi from China (PG-13) and The Last King (2016) is a Viking drama from Norway (R). Both in original languages with English subtitles.
True stories: The Ivory Game (2016) looks at the wildlife activists struggling to end the illegal trade in elephant ivory (not rated). The Netflix original documentary had its world debut at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this year. Also newly arrived: career portraits of Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (2016) and Disney animator Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (2016) and the Mexican wrestling documentary Lucha Mexico (2016) (all not rated).
More streaming TV: the British mystery shows The Fall: Season 3 with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan and Thorne: Sleepyhead (2010) and Thorne: Scaredy Cat (2010) with David Morrisey, the British family comedy Chewing Gum: Season 1, and the new Netflix animated kid show World of Winx: Season 1.
Stand-up: Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60 (not rated).
The Neon Demon (2016), a savage, surreal, and visually mesmerizing indictment of the culture of youth and the modeling industry as a sacrificial altar from Nicolas Winding Refn, is a horror film as fashion layout (R). Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Morris From America (2016) is a comedy about an African-American teenager coming of age in Germany (R).
Also newly arrived: The drone warfare drama Eye in the Sky (2016) with Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman in his last screen performance (R) and Equals (2016), a love story in a science fiction parable starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult (PG-13).
True stories: Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour (2014), which chronicles how Edward Snowden revealed the of illegal covert surveillance programs run by the NSA, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (R). Also new: Ron Mann’s Altman (2014) on the maverick filmmaker (not rated) and Out of Print (2016), about the troubles of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles (not rated).
Foreign affairs: Easy Money (2012) is a crime thriller from Sweden starring Joel Kinneman (R), the battle-of-the-sexes satire Absurdistan (2008) from Germany (not rated), the drama Ben X (2007) from Belgium (not rated), the whimsical French animated comedy A Town Called Panic (2009, not rated), and Edward Yang’s early feature The Terrorizers (1986) from Taiwan (not rated). All in original languages with subtitles.
Also new: Battle in Seattle (2008) about the protests at the WTO meetings in Seattle 1999 (R), Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) with Gene Hackman as a paranoid surveillance expert (PG) and Erin Brockovich (2000) with Julia Roberts in her Oscar-winning performance (R).
Amazon Prime / Hulu
The new month brings a new batch of older releases. There’s the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting (1997) with Matt Damon and Robin Williams (R). You like comedy? There’s Barbershop (2002, PG-13), Death at a Funeral (2007, R), and the misfit baseball tale Major League (1989, R). Get Shorty (1995) is a crime story with style and humor (R), Up in the Air (2009) a story of modern life with comic bite (R), and the Oscar-winning Rocky (1976) is the great American underdog sports drama (PG).
Another batch of classic James Bond films cycles through the streams, from Sean Connery in Dr. No (1963, PG), From Russia with Love (1963, PG) and Goldfinger (1964, PG) to George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, PG) to Roger Moore in Live and Let Die (1973, PG) to Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye (1995, PG-13).
John Frankenheimer’s 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate (1962), one of the great political thrillers of all time and a savage political satire, plays to our worst fears of political conspiracies. Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey star as American G.I.s captured by North Koreans who return without any memory of their captivity. As Sinatra investigates the mystery, war hero Harvey begins acting strangely and his ruthlessly ambitious mother (Angela Lansbury in the icy, insidious performance that earned her an Oscar nomination) stage-manages the red-scare political campaign of her Joseph McCarthy-like husband’s (James Gregory) presidential run. Janet Leigh delivers one of her best performances as Sinatra’s headstrong love interest and Henry Silva plays a Korean butler with kung fu skills and a secret agenda (PG-13).
Poltergeist (2015), the remake of eighties horror classic, is presented in an extended version (PG-13). Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt star.
The British drama Brief Encounters: Series 1, about four women in the 1980s whose lives are transformed when they answer an ad for saleswomen for lingerie and sexual aids, debuts exclusively in the U.S. on Acorn. The first two episodes are now available, new episodes arrive each Monday.