Movie theaters in the U.S. may be tentatively opening back up, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues to push back movie releases, streaming services remain your best bet for entertainment during the hot summer months. This July, a few films that were intended for theatrical release are dropping straight to streaming, in addition to some great films of the last several decades worth rewatching (or watching for the first time, as I did last weekend with David Fincher’s Panic Room, now streaming.)
The Assistant and Palm Springs both played at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. While wildly different in tone — the latter is a Groundhog Day-style romp starring Andy Samberg while the former tackles the #MeToo movement — both are well worth watching. And the filmed production of Hamilton, initially set for a 2021 theatrical run, drops onto Disney Plus over the July 4 weekend.
Here’s our full roster of picks — including My Cousin Vinny, one of the best courtroom procedurals ever made — for what’s worth watching this July.
Director Kitty Green’s striking feature about an assistant working for a predatory film producer notably never shows the unnamed boss, an obvious stand-in for Harvey Weinstein. It makes his presence all the more looming, and illustrates the banality of the kind of abuse that the #MeToo movement highlighted. From our review:
Green doesn’t need to embellish Jane’s experiences to get across how soul-crushing they are, especially as it becomes clear there’s no good outcome for her. If she does nothing, the cycle of abuse will continue. If she speaks up, the only job on the line will be her own. And there’s no one she can turn to, because everyone around her has already accepted that this is just the way things are. Green’s approach to stories — finding larger truths rather than focusing on the most sensational aspects — vaults The Assistant into extraordinary territory, as it sheds light not only on the actions of abusers in power, but on the people around them, who can’t or won’t do anything to change the status quo.
The Assistant will be streaming on Hulu on July 20.
Directed by James Wan (Saw, Furious 7), The Conjuring is one of the best haunted house movies of the last decade. Very loosely based on Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband-and-wife team of real-life paranormal experts (played by Vera Farmiga and horror savant Patrick Wilson), The Conjuring tells the story of a family who moves into a spooky old farmhouse. Spoiler alert: the house is haunted as heck.
The Conjuring dropped onto Hulu earlier this year, but is now headed to distributor WarnerMedia’s HBO Max.
The Conjuring is streaming on HBO Max.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is perhaps the sweetest of the Judd Apatow-produced comedies, thanks in large part to the sensibilities of writer and star Jason Segel. He plays a TV composer, Peter, whose girlfriend, the titular Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) and the star of the show he works on, abruptly dumps him. When he heads to a Hawaiian resort to try and forget her, Sarah shows up with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). With the help of a cute receptionist (Mila Kunis) Peter eventually gets over Sarah and writes his Dracula puppet musical, and Segel would go on to write and star in The Muppets (2011.)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is streaming on Hulu.
Broadway may be dark right now, but audiences can finally watch Hamilton without heading to New York and spending big bucks on a ticket. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary (yes, that’s a pun) musical was originally set to be released in theaters in October 2021, but as the coronavirus pandemic has shifted around release schedules, Disney elected to drop the filmed version onto Disney Plus this July 4 weekend. Featuring the original Broadway cast and directed by the show’s original director, Thomas Kail, Hamilton is described as “a leap forward in the art of ‘live capture’ which transports its audience into the world of the Broadway show in a uniquely intimate way.”
Hamilton is streaming on Disney Plus.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
No offense to Neil Patrick Harris, who turns in an admiral performance as Count Olaf in Netflix’s excellent adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, but there’s just no topping Jim Carrey’s manic, sinister portrayal in the 2004 film. Spanning the first three novels, the movie adaptation is like a mashup of Tim Burton and Roald Dahl. The film takes some liberties with the plot while the Netflix series is a bit more true to the source material, but now that the movie is back on Netflix, you can decide for yourself which version you prefer.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is streaming on Netflix.
Directed by Uncut Gems’ Josh and Benny Safdie, this documentary about a high school basketball star who never made it to the NBA fits neatly into the brothers’ oeuvre of character studies about men who can’t get out of their own way. From our list of 21 essential films about Black Lives:
Films like this allow me to remain cognizant of the fact that all all the blessings, all the great things I have in my life right now can be stripped away in an instant. It encourages me to work harder. And it also forces me to think about the ways in black men and women — but mainly, from my perspective, black men — have been boxed into a particular mentality as a result of starvation of education and other opportunity. Biggie Smalls said on his first album, Ready To Die, “Either you’re slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” It’s the truth, in certain ways — certain opportunities will be placed in front of you, and if you don’t have anything, you’re just going to grasp at the one thing that seems most appealing.
Lenny Cooke is streaming on The Criterion Channel.
My Cousin Vinny
90’s era Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei doing Brooklyn accents. That’s it. That’s the pitch.
My Cousin Vinny is streaming on Hulu.
Polygon caught Palm Springs, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as wedding guests caught in a Groundhog Day-style time loop, when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. It sold to Hulu and Parasite distributor Neon in the largest Sundance deal to date, topping out at $17.5 million … and .69 cents (nice). In January we wrote, “The story may be familiar, at least for those who either grew up with Groundhog Day, or caught modern riffs like Edge of Tomorrow or Happy Death Day. But the execution here feels fresh and playful, with a new energy coming from Samberg and Milioti’s go-for-broke performances, and some new iterations on the formula.”
Palm Springs will be streaming on Hulu on July 10.
David Fincher’s Panic Room is essentially Home Alone for grown-ups. (Forest Whitaker even references Joe Pesci’s iconic role as one of the bandits.) Jodie Foster and a tweenaged Kristen Stewart star as a mother and daughter who have to deal with armed robbers in their New York City brownstone on their first night living there. They retreat to the home’s built-in panic room, and a deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues. Not only does this provide plenty of opportunities for the characters to say the name of the movie — always a delight — it also puts a fun twist on the home-invasion thriller, especially as it becomes clear that the robbers (Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) know all about the house’s quirks.
Panic Room is streaming on Amazon Prime.