Yes, it’s the weekend again, and time to review the best new adds online, on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. So let’s get started!
Hulu‘s biggest add this week is The Assistant, the 2019 drama. Julia Garner(The Americans) stars as a recent college grad, looking to become a film director, and delighted to land a job as the assistant to a movie mogul(unseen on screen). But soon it becomes apparent he’s having sexual liaisons in his office, and obviously, to her, at least, that he’s actively engaging in sexual harassment of female employees. And she takes the dangerous step of going to Wilcock(Matthew McFadden), in Human Resources. Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jonny Orsini and Noah Robbins also star, and Kitty Green(Casting JonBenet) directs. This movie is based on Harvey Weinstein, and it’s crushingly effective at showing the dangerous situation in place, not just with someone like Weinstein, but the culture that allows it. Danny Leigh of the Financial Times wrote, “after a while, the question becomes not just what kind of industry allowed this to happen, but how many people still working in it now looked the other way.” And it gets an impressive 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m definitely watching. Hulu has also added Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, the 2019 doc about Leonard Cohen. Or, more precisely, Leonard Cohen and his muse/partner Marianne Ihlen, in the 1960′s. Directed by Nick Broomfield(Kurt & Courtney), this film tells of the couple’s life, mainly during the 60‘s, on the island of Hydra, where they lived, and later in Montreal and New York, and how she aided in his work and inspired songs like “Bird on a Wire” But it segues into the history of Cohen in a more ordinary way,too often, with tales of his rise, drug use, and losing his money. Ihlen’s story, unfortunately, doesn’t really get told. But if you love Cohen, there’s good stuff here, with home movies and tape recordings not publicly heard or seen before. And it gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, but Clarisse Loughley of the Independent(UK) writing, “never do we learn how it felt to be the woman to whom [Leonard] Cohen would say “so long” every night on stage.” You decide. Also new on Hulu is The New York Times Presents doc They Get Brave, a 2020 production. This tells the tale of the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who were given cameras during the Covid-19 surge in New York City, and asked to keep video diaries of their patients, their families and the workers themselves. The results are harrowing and devastating at times, with doctors like Sameer Khanijo saying “death is everywhere.” And it depicts the shortage of PPE making the fight harder and more dangerous for the workers themselves. And at 36 minutes, everyone has time to watch this eye-opening show. And there are 9 more to come. I’m tuning in. And, finally, Hulu has added The Challenge, a 2016 documentary. Italian visual artist Yuri Ancarani directs this fascinating film’s portrayal of Qatari sheikhs opulent wealth and lifestyles as they race on sand dunes, take their falcons for airplanes flights and share communal meals. This won multiple awards in 2017, including Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival. And it gets a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Noel Murray of the LA Times said, “the movie eschews narration and captions, and instead just strings together one stunning scene after another of inconceivably wealthy oil men indulging their passions.” It’s on my list.
Okay, Netflix doesn’t have any obvious big adds this weeks, but there are some interesting things there,like Signs, the 2017 Polish crime drama series. Here, Commissioner Michal Trela(Andrzej Konopka) newly arrives in Owl Mountain, where a priest has been murdered, but in this super-religious community, it is difficult to get answers, and the murders continue. Helena Sujecka, Magdalena Zak, Michal Czernecki, Andrzej Mastalerz and Helena Englert also star, and there are now 8 episodes available for viewing. And the series gets a 6.3/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely watching. I love a mystery. Netflix has also added Fear City: New York City vs the Mafia, a 2020 true crime doc series. This portrays the NYC of the 70’s and 80’s, and the five mafia families that controlled it, and how the feds tried to take all of them down in one fell swoop, with what was called “the Commission case”. You’ll see now infamous people like Rudy Giuliani, SDNY lawyers – Michael Chertoff, John Savarese and Gil Childers; and hear about how the construction industry in NYC was controlled by the mob, even the more infamous Donald Trump. And director Sam Hobkinson(The Kleptocrats), gives us a gritty and realistic view of New York, and tells the story from the angle of the FBI, not the crooks. Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe says “the story Hobkinson presents is richer, and far more disturbing, than any that Hollywood storytelling has had to offer,” and it gets a 7.4/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list, but be forewarned, there’s a lot of swearing and graphic images portrayed. Netflix has also added Offering to the Storm, a 2020 Spanish-German film that is the third and last installment in the Baztán Trilogy. Marta Etura stars as Inspector Salazar who investigates the disturbing murder of a baby in the Batzán valley in the Navarre region of Spain. This time, the Basque creature the Inguma is introduced, who steals your life while you sleep, and again, the murders seem to tie in to her family, and their involvement in the valley. Leonardo Sbaraglia, Paco Tous, Marta Larralde, Ana Wagner and Elvira Mínguez also star and the movie is directed by Fernando González Molina. This is not a stand alone movie, you should see at least part two, The Legacy of the Bones. And while you’re at it, watch The Invisible Guardian. They’re all available on Netflix. There are upsetting portrayals of violence here, but there is also the celebration of the Basque folklore, and a great female protagonist. It gets a 6.3/10 on IMDb, with Forbes calling it “quite a good climactic conclusion to the trilogy.” I’m watching. Also new on Netflix is Love on the Spectrum, a 2019 Australian reality series. This follows several people with autism, or on the spectrum, who want to date, and two long term couples, as they face the complexities of dating and romance, just like anyone else. But these intriguing and charming people are also hindered by societies preconceptions and the lack of support and training given in other areas of their lives. The series was developed and directed by Cian O’Clery, there are 5 episodes available now, and though most of the participants are white and male(!), it’s still an exceptional TV show. Aaron Barnhart of Primtetimer says “Love on the Spectrum takes these adults well past their comfort zones, testing their emotions and their interpersonal skills in dating situations that I found myself relating to way more than I expected. … It’s not as moody or emotionally wrought as scripted shows like Netflix’s Atypical. But its quest is one that feels so relevant right now.” And it gets an incredible 8.6/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely tuning in. And finally, Netflix has added Street Food: Latin America, their sumptuous new docuseries. here, we travel all over Central and South America, to Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and more, to sample delicious foods from street food vendors, to taste the typical and delicious indigenous foods of the area. Ceviche in Lima, Ajiaco in Bolivia and Memelas in Mexico are just some of the treats revealed, and women vendors(!) predominate in five of the six episodes of the show. This is the new installment of last year’s Asian Street Food series, and is even more enjoyable, if only for the reason that travel is pretty much out of the question for most of us right now. And it gets an amazing 8.3/10 on IMDb. I’m watching.
Amazon’s big add this week is the 2020 historical biography, Radioactive, starring Rosamund Pike. Here, Pike stars as the amazing Marie Skłodowska-Curie, who withstood years of sexism and xenophobia, to become a leader in the chemistry world, and particularly in the new field of radioactive substances, discovering polonium and radium. This film follows her through the decades, from meeting Pierre Curie(Sam Riley), their work in the lab in University of Paris, and her going on with research after his death. Anya Taylor-Joy, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale and Harriet Turnbull also star and the great Marjane Satrapi(Persepolis) directs. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times writes,”….. it pulls you in and sometimes knocks you sideways, most notably with the scenes illustrating the terrors that Curie’s discoveries led to.” And it gets a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6/10 on IMDb. I’m tuning in. Amazon also offers Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist, a two-part 2020 comedy special. Here, Gaffigan works on a different approach, going to two different countries, Canada and Spain, soaking up their culture, and then performing in front of local crowds in that specific country. The first hour is spent in Canada, the second in Spain. And, predictably, some of the jokes don’t go over so well in front of those foreign crowds. And it gets a 6.8/10 on IMDb. Watch if you want a laugh. And, finally, Amazon has added The Bench, a 2001 Welsh crime drama series. This show observes the daily occurrences in the magistrates’ court of a small Welsh town, so there are all kinds of crimes and difficulties involved, arson, neglect and yes, murder. Mark Lewis Jones, Phaldut Sharma, Eiry Thomas, Brian Hibbard and Lesley Vickerage star, and there are two seasons available, with 10 episodes each. And it gets a 7.5/10(!) on IMDb. Certainly worth a view.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, new and old, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!