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Star on Disney Plus: Best movies and TV shows to stream on launch day

Disney+ is expanding its streaming library today, by a lot.

Disney+ is expanding its streaming library today, by a lot.

Falling under the banner of “Star”, this injection of movies and TV shows will officially launch at 7pm AEDT this evening though many titles are already appearing on the home screen.

The Star expansion changes the game for anyone who thought Disney+ was too family friendly.

What this means for existing subscribers is that an extra tile will appear on the home screen next to the Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic tiles. Within the tile is a bevy of pop culture treasures – not quite the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin but, hey, that much gold is gauche anyway.

Among the hundreds of new titles will be some of your favourites including the Die Hard franchise and The X-Files and critically acclaimed movies and TV shows such as Broadcast News, The French Connection, The Descendants and more.

Much of the movies have come to Disney from its acquisition of 20th Century Fox so you’ll find some of Fox’s biggest titles including Titanic among its library while many of the TV series hail from Disney’s American broadcast network, ABC.

What this also means is this more adult-oriented content isn’t always suitable for families with young children. Parental controls will be introduced to keep away younger eyes based on classification limits, but those without the pitter-patter of impressionable feet in their household won’t need to bother.

Of course, Disney isn’t giving away all this extra stuff for free – and Star isn’t opt-out, you have to take it if you want Disney+. Subscription prices will rise for new subscribers, from $8.99 a month to $11.99 a month while existing members will have their current prices grandfathered for six months from today.

Those who signed up for an annual subscription at $89.99 won’t see the new $119.00 annual price kick in until their next billing cycle from September.

So, now that’s all sorted, what can you actually watch from this evening? The full tables are below but, first, we’ve pulled out some of our favourite movies and TV shows to add to your watchlist.

MOVIES

28 Days Later: A highly contagious virus is let loose on an unsuspecting public, changing everything we’ve ever known. But, at least COVID hasn’t created any violent zombies so Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later still constitutes as escapism and not, thank god, a documentary.

Alien: All the movies from the Alien franchise (except Prometheus for some odd reason) is available on Star so you can hear terrified people scream into space. One of the most effective horror movies ever made, even 40 years later, it’ll give you chills.

Broadcast News: It’s not the only movie or TV show to be set behind the scenes of a TV news program but it’s still among the best, if not the best. Starring Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and William Hurt, it’s a smart, keenly observed rom-com with some incredible performances.

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Melissa McCarthy’s acerbic, rude and unapologetic Lee Israel is the kind of unlikeable female lead character that once would never have made it onto a movie poster. But in director Marielle Heller’s hands, this story about the real-life literary forger is a film of great humanity.

The Color of Money: The combination of Martin Scorsese and Paul Newman alone would be enough to add The Color of Money to your watchlist but this drama about a crafty pool hustler is a classic for a reason. The film might even find some new fans if they realise that it’s based on a book by Walter Tevis, who wrote the novel which became one of 2020’s most watched shows, The Queen’s Gambit.

Dead Poets Society: “O Captain! My Captain!” Robin Williams’ inspirational English teacher at a New England boarding school still has lessons more than 30 years after its release. Apart from Williams, it also had an impressive young cast who would go on to be mainstays in film and TV in the years to come, including Ethan Hawke, Sean Robert Leonard and Josh Charles.

Deadpool: Few had high expectations for Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, considering the character’s lacklustre presence in X-Men Origins: Wolverine seven years earlier – look, even Deadpool admits it. So, when Reynolds’ snarky, messy anti-superhero smart-arses his way back into our lives, we didn’t realise it would be so punchy. That’s a punch we’ll take.

The Descendants: Beautifully crafted and literally beautiful to look at, this Hawaii-set drama about a man in charge of a family trust has a quiet grace. The key relationship between George Clooney’s main character and his older daughter, played by Shailene Woodley, as they deal with the pending death of her comatose mother, drives the story.

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Die Hard: A terrorist takeover of his estranged wife’s office block isn’t going to stop New York cop John McClane from the Christmas reunion he’s hoping for – not bare feet on broken glass and definitely not Hans Gruber. The franchise slides into diminishing returns but that first movie is unimpeachable.

Enemy of the State: Sure, it’s cheesy and entirely implausible but this fast-paced action thriller starring Will Smith as a lawyer who is unwittingly drawn into conspiracy that threatens his whole world. It’s peak ’90s stuff from Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer and has an impressive supporting cast with Gene Hackman, Regina King, Gabriel Byrne, Lisa Bonet and even Jamie Kennedy and Seth Green as a couple of surveillance guys.

Face/Off: For a fully unhinged ’90s mainstream action movie, you really can’t go past Face/Off, a movie in which Nicholas Cage and John Travolta basically try to out-crazy each other as an FBI agent and terrorist who, uh, don each other’s faces. It’s dumb as hell but also bizarrely fun.

The Favourite: There are few greater pleasures than watching three actors sink their teeth into deliciously acidic dialogue and Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are having an absolute ball in Yorgos Lanthimos’ story of intrigue and personal betrayal in the court of Queen Anne.

The Fly: When it comes to body horror, David Cronenberg knows exactly which buttons to push for maximum squirmage. And Jeff Goldblum as a weird scientist whose experiment goes awry, and he turns into a fly hybrid is very squirmy indeed. Good times.

The French Connection: A classic 1970s thriller by the acclaimed filmmaker William Friedkin, The French Connection is mandatory viewing – no “before my time” excuses will be accepted. The story is simple – NYC cops on the chase for a heroin smuggler – but it set the bar for a taut crime caper for decades to come.

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Hidden Figures: The inspirational story of three underestimated black women in the NASA space program is exactly the antidote you need for a bummer day. The performances from Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, plus the film’s stunning costume and product design, will lift your spirits.

Logan: If you didn’t know Logan was part of the X-Men franchise, you would never have suspected that this neo-western was a superhero movie – well, until the superpowers come out anyway. The final chapter in Hugh Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine, directed by James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari) is an emotionally honest and stripped-down film that really interrogates the toll a superhero life can take.

Never Let Me Go: With a screenplay by Alex Garland, adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s book, the Never Let Me Go is set in a world in which human life expectancy has been vastly extended, but only by harvesting organs from people born for this exact purpose. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley play three young people who deal with their fates in different ways.

Office Space: The epitome of workplace satire, Mike Judge’s witty and astute Office Space still feels searingly relevant 20 years later. Set in an average office, the frustrations, dynamics and endless parade of micro-aggressions are as relatable as they are hilarious.

Patti Cake$: Not even Australians knew of the homegrown talent that was Danielle Macdonald until her lauded performance in Patti Cake$, which she plays an aspiring rapper struggling to be noticed. Since then, Macdonald has been cast in a swath of high-profile projects including the upcoming The French Exit opposite Michelle Pfeiffer. But this is where it started.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion: Is it the Belinda Carlisle songs or the bonkers story about inventing Post-Its? Either way, Romy and Michele’s status as one of everyone’s favourite ’90s buddy comedies was hard won with its story about female friendship and embracing yourself.

Rushmore: Many of the Wes Andersons are here but there’s a special place for Rushmore in Anderson’s oeuvre of visual and quaint delights – and not just because this marked the beginning of Anderson’s long collaboration with Bill Murray. Starring Murray and a young Jason Schwartzman, it’s focused on the latter’s over-committed high school student, Max, who is involved in every kind of extra-curricular activity but good at none of them.

Sideways: Your tastebuds will salivate for a pinot noir after travelling through California wine country with Paul Giamatti, Sandra Oh and Thomas Haden Church. Of course, Sideways isn’t some postcard movie, but a neurotic and funny character piece about unfulfilled potential and regret.

Speed: The sparkling chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves practically overtakes the ticking clock and maniacal devilry of Dennis Hopper’s plan involving a busload of hostages going kaboom. Eminently rewatchable.

Thank You For Smoking: Many people have ethically dubious jobs but being the mouthpiece for Big Tobacco has to be up there in the realm of the unforgivable. So, how does Aaron Eckhart’s smooth and charming Nick reconcile his work with his responsibilities as a parent? Jason Reitman’s debut is dripping with cynicism but there’s a lot of wit too.

Waitress: Released after the death of its director and director Adrienne Shelly in a vicious killing, the movie starring Keri Russell has taken on new meaning as a story about the violence perpetrated against women – Russell plays a waitress trapped in an abusive marriage. Even though the film deals with heavy subjects, it’s expertly balanced with moments of levity and hope.

Wall Street: Greed is king in Wall Street, the Oliver Stone drama which has become inextricably linked with the worst excesses and culture of financial institutions’ exploitation of just about everybody. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko has become a legendary villain, though that doesn’t seem to stop people from wanting to emulate him – maybe they didn’t see the ending?

Working Girl: With the incomparable Mike Nichols behind the camera and the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Joan Cusack in front of it, Working Girl is a seminal dramedy about a smart outsider thrust into the lion’s den of the cutthroat city.

TV SHOWS

Alias S1-5: True, over five seasons, Alias’ double and triple crosses became so twisty it’s possible the writers couldn’t even unravel its Renaissance-era inspired prophecies and conspiracies. Also true, Jennifer Garner’s secret spy capers were highly entertaining, engrossing and she kicked total arse.

Bunheads: It only lasted one season but Amy Sherman-Palladino’s follow-up to Gilmore Girls has the same signature pitter-patter rhythm of her award-winning dialogue and without some of the queasier sentimentality of her most famous creation. Bunheads follows a struggling show dancer who moves to a small coastal town and ends up as the ballet teacher at a local studio.

Castle S1-8: When it comes to unoffensive, formulaic detective dramedies, Castle really benefits from the onscreen charm of Nathan Fillion. There’s much to be said for the appeal of American crime shows that wrap everything up nicely at the end of 42 minutes, with loads of quips and playful musical cues thrown in along the way. The epitome of calming TV.

Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23 S1-2: Krysten Ritter’s comedic timing is showcased as the acidic and selfish but loveable Chloe, the titular B in apartment 23. This oddball two-season comedy also features James Van Der Beek as a fictionalised, egomaniacal version of himself.

Felicity S1-4: Those unfamiliar with J.J. Abrams’ history might be surprised to find out the genre king behind Lost and the Star Trek movies started his TV career with a show about a sensitive and sensible teenage girl uprooting her college plans to follow her crush to New York City. The effervescent Keri Russell in a love triangle with Scott Speedman and Scott Foley – how could you not?

Firefly: A space-western with a rag-tag group of outsiders fighting against a centralised, semi-fascist government has a touch of Star Wars but Firefly is more than just genre tropes. It’s smart, funny and full of heart.

Fresh Off the Boat S1-6: An American family sitcom centred on an Asian-American family, the only immigrants (for a time anyway) in 1990s Orlando. It’s a mix of nostalgia with the charms of a family-friendly story that tells specific stories about immigrant experiences but also universal tales about family life. Also, Randall Park. Yes, we love Randall Park.

Homeland S1-8: If you dipped out of Homeland pretty early on, you can hardly be blamed but there are some fantastic storylines among its eight seasons that really capture the increasingly complex geopolitical landscape and the reach and challenges of American imperial power. Plus, Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin are just fantastic.

My So-Called Life: Speaking of Claire Danes, the one-season My So-Called Life was her big breakthrough when she only 14 years old. As Angela Chase, a shy teen with a thoughtful, rich inner-life, she has a big-time crush on Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) but it’s the series’ exploration of queer issues, class and even parenting that makes it such a memorable series.

New Girl S1-7:New Girl belongs to that genre of American sitcoms centred on a group of telegenic friends with pretty lighthearted problems and while it sounds as if there’s little to distinguish it from its cohort, the cast led by Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield make it pretty irresistible.

Grey’s Anatomy S15-17: OK, it’s actually crazy this show is still going but if you are one of those people who have stuck around through all the dramas, then you know Stan is only up to season 14. Star will have the next three seasons.

The X-Files S1-11: Mulder and Scully. Scully and Mulder. Eleven seasons of supernatural conundrums and wild conspiracies that would blow the minds of even the most crazed QAnon believer. It wasn’t always great, but there are more amazing episodes among its 209 chapters than other shows have episodes.

Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima

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