Yes, it’s that time again,the weekend, when we review the best new movies and television shows that have been added on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. And there’s some good stuff out there, so let’s get started!
Hulu’s biggest add this week is Normal People, the 2020 drama limited series. Based on the best-selling(and award-winning) novel of the same name by Sally Rooney, this is the story of Marianne and Connell, who meet in high school in Ireland, and fall in love, but find their future together fraught with difficulty, as they are from two very different classes and backgrounds. Marianne(Daisy Edgar-Jones) is from an affluent family, while Connell(Paul Mescal) is from the working class, his mother having actually worked for Marianne’s family, and the 12 episode series follows them through the years of their relationship, with the dynamics changing constantly. Sarah Greene, Aislín McGuckin, Eanna Hardwicke, Fionn O’Shea and Eliot Salt also star. The Guardian calls it ” a small screen triumph,” and it gets an amazing 8.8/10 on IMDb. Don’t miss it. Hulu has also added House of D, the 2005 coming-of -age movie directed by David Duchovny. This tells the tale of a troubled artist, Tom Warshaw(Duchovny), in Paris, who looks back on his own childhood on the birthday of his son(Anton Yelchin). Yelchin plays the younger Tom, Robin Williams, his father, and Téa Leoni, his mother(!). Erykah Badu, Frank Langella(!), Zelda Williams and Orlando Jones also star. And, though this movie only got a 10%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes, it gets a 7/10 on IMDb, and has a wonderful cast. You decide. Hulu has also added Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, a 2017 documentary. Directed by award-winning director Matt Tyrnauer(Citizen Jane: Battle for the City), this movie tells the story of the life and exploits of Scotty Bower, a gas station owner in Hollywood, who set up ‘dates’ for some of Hollywood‘s biggest stars. It starts out gossipy and salacious, as Bower tells of his own life as a prostitute and procurer, but morphs into something more sensitive and sad, as he tells of his being gay in 40’s and 50’s rigid America and childhood sexual encounters he still insists were consensual. Anne Hornaday of the Washington Post said, “in Matt Tyrnauer’s touching documentary “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood,” Bowers is cast not only as a name-dropping Zelig but a free-living, free-loving, fascinatingly contradictory pioneer.” And it gets an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. And, finally, Hulu offer Harry Benson: Shoot First, a 2016 documentary directed by Justin Bare and Matthew Miele. This movie celebrate Harry Benson, a Scottish photographer who not only took the famous pic of the Beatles pillow fight while on their tour in ’64, but also chronicled the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. And he was still working at 86, when this movie was shot, in 2016. Directors Bare and Miele give us a glorious tour through this artist’s exciting and sometimes dangerous life. Kathryn Laskaris of the Toronto Star wrote, “the only thing better than Harry Benson behind the camera is Harry Benson in front of it.” And it gets an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.3/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list.
Netflix‘ most talked about add this week has to be Never Have I Ever, Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s 2020 coming-of-age comedy series. This tells the tale of Devi Vishwakumar(Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a teen who is looking to improve her high school status, after a rotten year that included the death of her father, and find a boyfriend. But her Indian immigrant mother doesn’t always understand, and there are countless other obstacles. Ramona Young and Lee Rodriguez play her friends, and Poorna Jagannathan wonderfully plays her mom. Richa Moorjani, Jaren Lewison, Darren Barnet and Niecy Nash(!) also star, and there are now 10 episodes available. Vulture calls it “pitch perfect,” and it gets an amazing 8.1/10 on IMDb, and a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m definitely tuning in. Netflix has also added Into the Night, a 2020 Belgian sci-fi thriller. This harrowing series follows a group of passengers on a plane that has already been hijacked, that must outrace the sun, as there has been a cataclysm that makes the sunlight lethal to living organisms. Jan Bijvoet, Nabil Mallat, Pauline Etienne, Laurent Capelluto and Astrid Whettnall star, and the series was developed by Jason George from a digital book by Jacek Dukaj. The Decider calls it “highwire suspense,” and it gets a 7.5/10 on IMDb. But it’s too scary for me. Better to watch A Secret Love, a 2020 documentary. This movie focuses on Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, two women who played on the women’s baseball team that inspired League of Their Own, and lived together, a committed and devoted romantic couple, who were forced to hide their relationship from conservative family members and their community in Illinois for decades. Director Terry Bolan, a great-nephew of Terry’s, is determined to fight the homophobia the pair has endured for years, and the result is a tender and warm-hearted look at their struggle. Tomris Laffly of RogerEbert.com says “there is no crying in baseball, but you might just be reduced to a puddle of tears while watching Bolan’s film, which finally brings the duo’s love out of the shadows and gives it a long-overdue chance to shine freely,” and it gets an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m watching. Netflix also offers Hollywood, a 2020 Netflix soapy drama mini-series. Here, Dylan McDermott plays Ernest “Ernie” West, a gas station owner, modeled on Scotty Bowers(see above),who pimps out his employees(and would-be actors) to various celebs on the post-WWII Hollywood scene. But this is a counter-history, brought to us by Ryan Murphy(Glee, The People vs. O.J. Simpson), so we see good black actresses like Camille Washington(Laura Harrier) get starring roles, and gay actors holding hands before the paparazzi. It has a wonderful cast, with stars like Jim Parson, Holland Taylor, Patti LuPone, Mira Sorvino, in addition to our central players Darren Criss, David Corenswet, Jake Picking and Jeremy Pope. But a good cast isn’t all that’s required, and the script just isn’t up to par. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 43%, but IMDb gives it a 7.4/10, so, if you want a dishy, alt-Hollywood adventure, this may be what you’re looking for.And there are seven episodes available now. But I would prefer The Half of It, a 2020 drama. Leah Lewis stars as Ellie Chu, here, a shy and isolated teenager in Squahamish, Washington, who reluctantly agrees to help jock Paul Munsky(Daniel Diemer) write a love letter to a girl she also admires, Aster Flores(Alexxis Lemire). But friendships build between the three of them, and they find love is more complex than they thought. Enrique Murciano, Wolfgang Novogratz, Catherine Curtin(Orange is the New Black) and Becky Ann Baker(Girls) also star, and Alice Wu(Saving Face) directs. This movie won the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca in 2019. Christy LeMire of RogerEbert.com writes, “the pieces may seem familiar in “The Half of It,” but the way Alice Wu assembles them results in a fresh and inspired whole.” And it gets an amazing 7.3/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list.
Amazon‘s biggest add this week has to be Upload, the 2020 comedy sci-fi series from Greg Daniels(The Office). This takes place in 2033, where people can be uploaded into one of six virtual worlds, where everything is possible (with an in-app purchase), after death. Nathan Brown(Robbie Arnell) is one of those people, uploaded by his girlfriend(Allegra Edwards) after a car wreck, into the virtual world run by Nora Antony(Andy Allo). Zainab Johnson, Kevin Bigley, Jordan Johnson-Hines, Chris Williams and Jessica Tuck also star, and there are ten episodes now available. And it gets an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Sam Adams of Slate writing, “Upload is like The Good Place if it were more interested in class struggle.” I’m watching. Amazon has also added This Beautiful Fantastic, the 2017 British fantasy drama. Jessica Brown Findlay(Downton Abbey) stars here as Bella, an isolated young librarian with OCD and a passion for books, who is threatened into redoing her neglected garden by grumpy neighbor Alfie, played by Tom Wilkinson. All this is played out in a fairy tale manner, even her charmed meeting and romance with a young inventor played by Jeremy Irvine. Andrew Scott, Anna Chancellor and Charlotte Asprey, and it was directed by Simon Aboud. It gets a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post said, “Depending on how you take your twee – sparingly or, as is the case in this preciously concocted tale of English misfits, slathered like marmalade over a crumpet – it will either delight or quickly cloy.” But it’s a little too twee for me, so luckily, Amazon also offers Season 1 of Seaside Hotel, a Danish drama series offered by PBS until May 31. This features the story of Badehotellet in Northern Denmark, in the 1920’s, with characters like Fie (Rosalinde Mynster), a teenage girl come to work at the hotel, who is quickly promoted to chambermaid by her somewhat lascivious and sinister boss, played by Ole Thestrup, and the rich guests that visit each summer. Amalie Dollerup, Cecile Stenspil, Lars Ranthe and Bjarne Henriksen also star, and 6 episodes available to watch now. This series has been nominated for multiple prizes, and won the Audience Award at the Danish Film Awards in 2020. It’s described by Entertainment Focus as Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie, and it gets a 7.5/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!