Check out these summer streaming recommendations for when the heat keeps you indoors.
For When Your Feet Are the Only Thing Burning Hotter Than the Sun
Gimme the Loot (2012), dir. Adam Leon. Available to stream on Hulu
Tramps (2016), dir. Adam Leon. Available to stream on Netflix
Adam Leon’s first two features form an appealing summer double bill. Both center on two young people wandering through New York City in pursuit of an elusive goal that deepens and complicates their relationship along the way. Gimme the Loot is a hilarious, low-key charm offensive with just enough subtext on class and race to keep from being a trifle.
Best friends and aspiring graffiti artists Sofia and Malcolm are out to “Bomb the Apple”—that is, tag the giant apple cut-out that rises up after every homer hit in Shea Stadium. To scrounge up cash to bribe a security guard, they bumble through a sequence of ill-conceived capers involving a bougie stoner girl, a lock-picking parolee, and thieving kids. Lively and endearing performances from Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson keep the film light on its feet even when everyone is mired in the stifling summer air. As Sofia and Malcolm tease out what they really mean to each other, their rambling quest becomes a rare thing: a shaggy-dog story that doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Leon’s 2016 companion piece, Tramps, hews to the same formula but shows a marked step forward. It’s a bit more polished, a bit more sophisticated, a bit wiser. Callum Turner’s Danny is a scrawny wannabe chef living in a dingy walk-up with his Polish immigrant mother, who runs a sports betting operation from their living room. His older brother calls from jail and asks Danny to cover a shady job for him: Pick up and deliver a mysterious briefcase for a cut of a $1,500 payday.
Danny’s path converges with that of Elle (Grace Van Patten), a young woman seeking a cut of the same take as an out from her less-than-ideal life. Naturally, things go sideways. As Elle and Danny feel each other out through sly banter and escalating mishaps, Tramps dips its toes a bit deeper in romcom waters than Gimme the Loot. But it’s similarly endearing, and features an amusing turn from comedian Mike Birbiglia as a skeevy mid-level crime schlub.
Both films clock in at around 80 minutes, and offer quick welcome relief from tired legs.
For When Fireworks Have Lost Their Charm
Beach Rats (2017), dir. Eliza Hittman. Available to stream on Hulu
By day, Frankie roams boardwalks and beaches with his tank top-clad bros, baking in the summer sun and scoping out girls. It’s an escape from home life, where his cancer-stricken father awaits death in hospice. By night, he trawls a local gay video chat site. At first, he’s intrigued but hesitant; he mostly clicks through and keeps his flat-brim cap tipped low. Soon enough, he starts meeting his much older online chat partners in the flesh. One kind hookup tells him, post-coitally and half-jokingly, that you can tell if you’re gay based on finger length. Palm to palm, their hands match up.
Strikingly textured 16mm photography captures the beauty of Frankie’s summer at neon Coney Island arcades and ecstasy-fueled dance clubs, contrasted by pitch-dark cruising rendezvous lit only by the cherry of a joint. At times the film is explicit and very difficult to watch, as director Eliza Hittman crafts a sensitive but unsentimental immersion in the pained fits of sexual becoming. Carried throughout by a magnetic lead performance from Harris Dickinson (a Brit, yet more than passable as a Brooklyn kid), Beach Rats presents summer as a season to try to find oneself, only to stay lost instead.
For When the Price of Shade Is an Arm and a Leg
The Bad Batch (2017), dir. Ana Lily Amirpour. Available to stream on Netflix
What images does your mind conjure up when you think of an Ace of Base song? Shopping-mall food courts? Disconcerting Nazi ties? If it doesn’t involve a limb dismemberment in the desert, then you probably haven’t seen The Bad Batch. After the success of her woozy black-and-white Persian vampire Western, A Girl Walks Home at Night, Ana Lily Amirpour followed it up with another simple, straightforward genre exercise: an acid-soaked, post-apocalyptic cannibal horror-romance.
Banished from society to a lawless wasteland, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) soon finds herself taken prisoner and relieved of a leg by a makeshift cannibal enclave, whose leader is a sensitive brute named Miami Man (Jason Momoa, waterless yet thriving). Although Jim Carrey and Giovanni Ribisi pop up along the way as a mute hermit and a raving vagrant, respectively, The Bad Batch is notable as an overlooked entry in our present Keanu-ssaince. Reeves creeps up the screen as a godlike, mustachioed cult leader bent on acid-dosing his followers and personally repopulating society with his rifle-wielding harem. His name? The Dream, naturally. Some viewers won’t be able to dial in to The Bad Batch’s languid pace, but if you can, its desert marauders and sun-choked shantytowns will make you grateful for your creature comforts.
For When the Humidity Clouds Your Vision and Your Judgment
Sun Don’t Shine (2012), dir. Amy Seimetz. Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
The sun scarcely pierces the overcast sky in this suffocating Florida noir, but the discomfiting humidity seeps through the screen. A volatile couple are on the lam en route to a safe haven in the Everglades. What they're running from is not made immediately clear. As details of their predicament emerge and stakes rise, a deliberately abrasive emotional drama mounts between the insecure, mercurial Crystal (the criminally underutilized Kate Lynn Sheil) and taciturn Leo (filmmaker Kentucky Audley).
Observant handheld photography flits from strip malls to swampland along their journey, yet lingers tightly on Leo and Crystal’s damp, desperate faces. The scenery changes, but their fate does not.
This would be an ordeal of a stress test with less capable actors—and indeed many scenes are showcases of anxiety—but Sheil and Audley play every beat so nervily raw that they remain compelling even as everything goes to shambles.
For When the Heat Could Sizzle a Lizard at High Noon
The Proposition (2005), dir. John Hillcoat. Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
Technically, this brutal kangaroo Western takes place at Christmastime, but that’s just down-under speak for “dead of summer.” In the late 1800s, an uneasy agreement is forged between outlaw brothers and an ambitious lawman out to engender civilization on land not far removed from its penal colony roots. The titular proposition goes predictably awry, and savage bloodshed soon cakes the outback as thoroughly as settled dust.
Musician Nick Cave composed the score as well as the screenplay, contributing such gravelly, lyrical lines as, “He sits up there in those melancholy hills… slumbers deep like the Kraken.” His words are brought to life by a fantastic cast that practically arrives pre-grizzled, including Guy Pearce, Danny Huston, John Hurt, and Ray Winstone. Heads explode, allegiances are crossed, and leather-skinned gunslingers bake in the unforgiving heat. It’s your dad’s favorite movie he hasn’t seen yet.
For When You Grow Up Overnight
King Jack (2015), dir. Felix Thompson. Available to stream on Hulu
There are practical reasons why coming-of-age movies often take place during the summer: School’s out, leaving teenagers free to explore, experiment, and fuck up. There are also symbolic ones, as the high temps reflect frenzied hormones and simmering angst. This is all largely the case with King Jack, a tiny 2015 indie that hits familiar beats but does so with aching, melancholic poignancy.
Fifteen-year-old Jack lives in a rundown small town with his single mother and older brother. One day he's put in charge of his younger cousin, whose mother has suffered some manner of mental break, and Jack does not hide that he feels very put-out by the responsibility. Over the film’s trim 80-minute runtime, Jack navigates run-ins with bullies, crushes, and broken bones. What sets King Jack apart in handling these tropes is the terrific lead performance by Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete), who makes Jack grounded and layered even in times when he’s being a coward or a sullen prick. We’re not always at our best at 15, but that doesn't mean we can't do some good.
For When the Only Oasis Is Grocery Store A/C
Never Goin’ Back (2018), dir. Augustine Frizzell. Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
Buddy comedies aren’t just the province of weed jokes and gross-out bodily fluid gags. Sometimes, they're the province of weed jokes and gross-out bodily fluid gags—starring women! Teen dropouts Angela and Jessie are set to share a birthday beach trip to Galveston before the cops, overdue rent money, and incredibly dumb men threaten to keep them in their sweltering, podunk south Texas town.
First time writer-director Augustine Frizzell delivers a sweet, raunchy love letter to best-friendship that glides on the easy chemistry between Maia Mitchell and Camilla Morrone. Angela and Jessie may not be booksmart; their parents are absent, they waitress at a dingy diner, and they have little ambition beyond eating doughnuts and sharing joints by the ocean. But those low stakes produce high comedy as refreshing as a Gulf Coast breeze.