Yes, it’s the weekend, again, and time to review the best new movies and television shows added online this week, to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. And there’s some good new stuff out there, so let’s get started.
Hulu‘s has a great new add this week with Ordinary Love, a 2019 British drama. Here, Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville(Phantom Thread) play a married couple, Tom and Joan, whose calm existence is shattered when Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer, and they both begin the exhausting rounds of surgery, chemo and more. And the cancer is not only a threat to Joan’s life, but a threat to their marriage, and the normalcy they both cherish. Amit Shah, Melanie Clark Pullen and David Wilmot also star, with Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn directing. This film got multiple nominations for awards in Britain, including Best Actress for Lesley Manville at the London Critics Circle Film Awards, 2020. Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote, “this is a movie about resignation and perseverance and the non-showy essence of life and love.” And it gets an amazing 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m definitely tuning in. Hulu has also added The Peanut Butter Falcon, the 2019 action comedy. Zack Gottsagen stars as a young man with down Syndrome, Zak, who escapes from is assisted living facility (and dreams of being a professional wrestler), who takes up with a young fisherman, Shia LaBeouf, and Dakota Johnson plays the social worker/friend of Zak, seeking to take him home. And it all takes place in North Carolina and Georgia, so allusions to Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn are plentiful. Bruce Dern, John Hawkes, Ann Owens Pierce, Thomas Haden Church and John Bernthal also star, with Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz directed. It’s a little corny for me, but it gets a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jake Wilson of The Age(Australia) said, “as calculated as the film might be, it’s hard to dislike. And while Nilson and Schwartz use Gottsagen‘s sincerity as a guarantee of their own good intentions, this never feels as exploitative as it might have.” You decide. Hulu has added an interesting documentary with Slay the Dragon, from 2019. This doc tells the infuriating tale of gerrymandering, particularly the efforts of the Republican Party, after Barack Obama’s first win, in 2008, and redistricting that will make it possible for the GOP to win, even if the majority of the voters support Democrats. Directors Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman tell the tale of the age old practice of gerrymandering, something both parties have engaged in, but which went to new heights after 2008, and, not coincidentally, after the Supreme Court Citizen United decision, which allowed unlimited amounts of money to be invested in the political process. Durrance and Goodman use a lot of fact based, and numbers driven science to prove their case here, and it’s enough to make your blood boil, if you believe in free elections, and one man(or woman), one vote. And it gets an astonishing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Rainier of NPR wrote, “It’s a terrific film. I was a little wary that it going to be really wonky, which it sort of is, but it is also extremely well-edited… and it’s even-handed.” I’m definitely watching. And finally, Hulu has added Bull, the 2019 drama. Amber Havard stars as Kris, a teenage girl in deep trouble, who runs afoul of her neighbor, Bull, played by Rob Morgan, an ex-rodeo clown with troubles of his won, by trying to steal from him, but their relationship warms as she agrees to clean up for him, and they become friends. Yolonda Ross, Keeli Wheeler, Keira Bennett and Sara Albright also star, and Anne Silverstein directed. And Silverstein does a great job of giving you a “fly on the wall” perspective, a quiet view of sad lives, with hope in friendship and animals. It’s been compared to 2018’s Lean on Pete, and it gets a 91%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes.Nell Minnow of RogerEbert.com wrote, “the patient, observant camera captures the sensitive performances by Havard and Morgan, and they are never less than eloquent and honest.” It’s on my list.
The biggest add on Netflix this week has to be Immigration Nation, it’s 2020 limited docuseries. Directed by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz, this series documents the activities of ICE(U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) after they embedded with the group for three years, from 2017 to 2020. In the first episode, entitled Instilling Fear, they show ICE agents who don’t show ID before entering, sweet-talking people with supposed “help” to get in, only to arrest the residents and whatever “collaterals” happen to be there too. if you can make it past that, there are five more episodes, including one on deporting veterans. The Trump administration fought to delay broadcast of Immigration Nation until after the 2020 presidential election, and one can see why. It’s a horrifying view into what our country is doing, seemingly unconstitutionally, and will continue to do if Trump is re-elected. It gets a stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Karen Muller calls it ” a wrenching look into the callousness and ambiguity present in the ways those laws are enforced.” We all should watch. Netflix also offers Work It, the 2020 teen drama. Sabrina Carpenter, of Disney fame, stars here as a brainy girl who needs to add extra-curricular activities to better her chances at being accepted at the best universities, so she decide to join a dance team. But she’s a klutz, and is scorned by the elite group. So she starts her own. Liza Koshy, Keiynan Lonsdale, Michelle Buteau and Jordan Fisher also star, and Laura Terruso directs. Oh, and Alicia Keys was one of the producers of this movie! I love the nerdiness and wit here, in a movie that doesn’t take it’s subject too seriously. And it gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Benjamin Lee of the Guardian says “there’s an easy sleepover movie charm to Netflix comedy Work It, a charm that’s proved harder to find in their many other teen offerings of late.” I’m watching. Also new on Netflix is Connected: the Hidden Science of Everything, a 2020 science series. Here, journalist Latif Nasser takes us on a tour of the planet, while he shows us how everything and everyone in the universe is connected. We go from the Sahara to the Amazon to see how dust in both places is connected and keeps us all alive. And he has other episodes like Poop and Digits. And you can rest assured it’s all entertaining, because Nasser is the director of research at WNYC’s famous Radiolab, one of my favorite podcasts. There are six episodes now available for streaming, and although there are no ratings yet, on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes, AZCentral.com calls it “near- perfect,” and I agree. And a lot of fun, too. I’m tuning in. Netflix also offers Almost Love, a 2020 romantic comedy. Scott Evans plays Adam, a painter who’s ghost painting for famous painter Ravella Brewer (Patricia Clarkson!), and marking a five year anniversary with his significant other Marklin (Augustus Prew), and facing an existential crisis. And his other friends face doubt too, like Cammy(Michelle Buteau), who’s dating a homeless man, and Haley(Zoe Chao) who has a crush on a high school kid she’s tutoring(!). Elizabeth Walsh, Colin O’Donnell, Christopher Gray and John Doman also star, while Mike Doyle directs. But there’s really nothing new here, or even interesting(Clarkson’s appearance is only a cameo). Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service writes, “after awhile, you’re ready to break up with all these people too.” But it gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, so if you want romance, you might look here. And, finally, Netflix has added Tiny Creatures, a 2020 nature series. In this enchanting series, we get a look at the amazing intrigues and dangers faced by some small(and darned cute) creatures, like the kangaroo rat, in the Sedona desert, a burrowing owl or a golden hamster. And it’s all brought to us by Emmy winner Jonathan Jones, known for his work on Planet Earth II, from his backyard studio in England. It’s wonderful, heart warming and sometimes, white knuckle viewing, and there are 8 episodes available now for viewing. ReadySteadyCut says “from the unusual perspective of scurrying rodents with big adventures in front of them, Tiny Creatures looks at the smallest among us from a whole new angle.” And it gets a 5.8/10 on IMDb. I’m tuning in.
Okay, so Amazon doesn’t have many new adds this week, in fact, The Peanut Butter Falcon (see above) is the only notable new movie added. But I did find Catching Milat, a 2015 two-part mystery drama. Based on the book Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker and Les Kennedy, and loosely based on a real serial murder near Sydney. Geoff Morrell stars as retired Superintendent Clive Small headed up the investigative team that was ultimately successful, and Richard Cawthorne stars as Detective Paul Gordon. Malcolm Kennard, David Field, Craig Hall and Leeanna Walsman also star. And it gets a 7.3/10 on IMDb. I love a mystery. And, finally, Amazon has Four Seasons Lodge, a 2009 documentary. Here, filmmaker Andrew Jacobs follows a group of Holocaust survivors that met every year at the Four Seasons Lodge in the Catskills. The people are mainly a group of Polish and German Jews who survived horrifying circumstances, and have met at the resort since 1979 to reminisce about their childhood and commiserate, too. But when the resort may be sold, it throws the group for a loop. Ella Taylor of the N.Y. Times wrote, “the lyrically complicating hand of Mr. Maysles, who shot the film with several collaborators, is everywhere apparent in the way the camera picks a path around coherence, refusing narrative in favor of the thick detail of life unfolding.” And it gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch for a little perspective, lest you think things are hard now. I am.
So sit back and binge, this weekend, on classics old and new, on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!