Steamy Streaming: July

Provokr's Picks on Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix

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BY: Zak Wojnar

Every month, the streaming services update their offerings to include a suite of new content for viewers to consume, in the form of both original programming and timeless classics. Here’s PROVOKR‘s picks for the best new additions to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime!

Blue Valentine (Netflix, July 5)

Love fades. Everything dies. Time is luck. Luck is fleeting. There are no happy endings. Whether or not any of this is true is up for debate, but it’s the central theme of Blue Valentine, the heartbreaking drama starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Jumping back and forth through time to the outset of a whirlwind romance and its inevitable collapse years later, Blue Valentine can be rough to watch, especially for those expecting little more than just Williams and Gosling getting naked (though there’s certainly plenty of that to behold!).

Harlots (Hulu, July 11)

While not a mainstream headline-grabber like The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s Harlots has a devoted following of its own, thanks to its period setting, female perspective, and impressive production design. Like most of Hulu’s shows, Harlots debuts new episodes weekly, rather than all at once like Netflix, though the July 11 premiere will feature two episodes. In addition to returning cast members like Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville, Lord of the Rings actress Liv Tyler is joining the cast for the new season.

Bound (Hulu, July 1)

The Wachowskis are best known for movies like The Matrix and for pushing even Netflix‘s sexual boundaries with the provocative Sense8, but it’s easy to forget the duo’s first directorial effort, a little-seen erotic neo-noir thriller called Bound. Starring Gina Gershon (Killer Joe) and Jennifer Tilly (Bullets over Broadway) as star-crossed lesbian lovers who attempt to pull off a heist. Action and bursts of violence ensue, as does one of the most legendary queer sex scenes ever shot on film.

An Education (Netflix, July 22)

This nominee for Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards holds a special place in our hearts, as a uniquely British, uniquely 1960s, and uniquely mature coming-of-age story. Societal standards were not what they are today, and An Education is all about a sixteen-year-old girl’s (Carey Mulligan) atypical courtship with a shady – but charismatic – older man, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Dominic Cooper (Preacher), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) co-star.

Shameless: Season 8 (Netflix, July 28)

PROVOKR’s favorite family is back again. Season eight of Showtime‘s Shameless wrapped up in January, and now the season is finally making the leap to Netflix. William H. MacyEmmy Rossum, and the rest of the Gallagher gang are back to doing what they do best: being a bunch of suburban fuck-ups. What more can we say about Shameless that we haven’t said already? It’s a good show, if you’re into this type of subject matter.

American Psycho (Hulu, July 1)

Christian Bale stars as Patrick Bateman, a white-collar sociopath who takes a long walk off the short pier of his sanity, slipping into a full-blown psychosis, dropping chainsaws on hookers and admiring his own flexing biceps during sex. American Psycho is one of those all-time classics which is a must-see for any burgeoning cinephile.

Don’t feed your ATM a dead cat, and while you’re at it, don’t watch the inexplicable straight-to-video sequel, American Psycho 2; despite the presence of likable actors Mila Kunis and William Shatner, it has nothing to do with the original and has been completely disowned by the entire fandom.

NYPD Blue: The Complete Series (Amazon, July 1)

The most unlikely sex symbol of the 1990s was Dennis Franz as Detective Andy Sipowicz. Stout, balding, bigoted, and grouchy, Sipowicz was the heart and soul of NYPD Blue, one of the most important TV dramas of all time. In the years before FX, AMC, and TNT, NYPD Blue was the program which pushed boundaries of sex, violence, and harsh language. It was so gritty and uncompromisingly realistic, even Law & Order couldn’t hold a candle to the drama on display, and you can take our word for it, it holds up even today.

Over the years, the cast included beloved actors like David Caruso (CSI: Miami), Jimmy Smits (Star Wars), Henry Simmons (Agents of SHIELD), Rick Schroder (The Champ, Silver Spoons), and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved by the Bell). The show has been out on Hulu since March, but is finally launching on Amazon this month, so there’s no excuse not to take a chance on one of television’s most revolutionary game-changers.

Witness (Hulu, July 1)

Harrison Ford is hot. His everyman charm, humble gravitas, and effortles charisma make him one of history’s greatest actors, though he’s sometimes dismissed as little more than a vessel for male escapism; after all, he is both Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Any doubters need look no further than Witness to see why Ford isn’t just another charming hunk, but one of the all-time greats, right up there with Clark Gable and Gregory Peck.

Part star-crossed romance, part cop thriller, and part fish-out-of-water comedy, Witness follows Ford as he lives among a Pennsylvanian Amish community, learning their customs while protecting a young boy from killers and falling in love with the child’s mother. Drama, action, and tender moments inevitably follow.

The Closer: The Complete Series (Amazon, July 1)

Before The Closer, TNT was a relatively obscure cable network which mostly aired syndicated TV reruns and late-night slasher movie marathons. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but everything changed when The Closer made its debut. It didn’t just turn TNT into a major network, but also paved the way for other networks to take chances with bold, original programming. The modern TV landscape would not exist if not for this show.

Created by James Duff, the series starred the beautiful and talented Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, the boss of an elite squad of LAPD detectives. In contrast to most cop shows (see NYPD Blue, above), The Closer struck an often affable tone, imbuing its detectives with strong personalities and surprisingly deep characterization.

The Closer holds the rare distinction of being one of the few shows which managed to successfully spin-off into an equally-successful series. Following the departure of Sedgwick after 109 episodes, the show was retooled as Major Crimes, with the great Mary McDonnell taking over the lead role, after having played a supporting role in the final few seasons of The Closer. Ultimately, Major Crimes ran for 105 episodes. Both shows combined add up to one hell of an iconic television run.

The Twilight Saga (Amazon, July 1)

There’s a measure of comfort to be had in watching something which strives to be nothing more than romantic at any cost. The Twilight Saga, spread across five films, is the ultimate YA comfort food. The story of a teenage girl (Kristen Stewart) who finds herself caught in the middle of a turf war between Werewolves and Vampires, Twilight is not a cinematic triumph, by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, full of beautiful actors (Ashley Greene, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen, Kellan Lutz, Dakota Fanning, Billy Burke) and an oddly enthralling melodrama. Twilight is harmless without being mind-numbing, and is simply nothing more than an enjoyable series of films which elegantly avoid having to deal with any sort of substance. It’s almost admirable how perfectly milquetoast the whole affair is. Team Edward? Team Jacob? Which is which? It doesn’t matter. Everybody’s pretty.