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!
The biggest add on Hulu this week is Woke, the new comedy series. Based on the work of cartoonist Keith Knight, Lamorne Morris(New Girl) stars as Keef, a cartoonist in San Francisco, living with two friends, Clovis and Gunther (T. Murph and Blake Anderson, respectively), who help him navigate life. He is determined to keep his life “light,”but when he has a shocking and racist encounter with police, he is challenged to stand up for what’s right. Cedric the Entertainer(!) also stars(off screen) as a talking trash can, and Nicole Byer and Eddie star as malt liquor bottles, as the animated objects that liven up the show considerably. Sasheer Zamata, Rose McIver, Alvina August and Sam Richardson also star, and there are 8 episodes available now to stream. This is a really likable, timely show, with a great cast. Eric Deggans of NPR says it “adds new layers of funny to a situation that easily could have been predictable and pedantic… This is a pitch perfect comedy released at just the right time. And it gets a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m definitely tuning in. Hulu has also added Prisoners, the 2013 thriller. Hugh Jackman stars as Keller Dover, a father whose two children go missing and blames an innocent man, played by Paul Dano, whom he kidnaps and tortures. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the detective trying to find the real perpetrator, and Melissa Leo, Viola Davis(!), Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Dennis Christopher also star, while Denis Villeneuve(Arrival) directed. This film was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the best 10 films of 2013, and was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 2013 Academy Awards. Wesley Morris of Grantland wrote, “Jackman is still in his phase of high-masculine misery… The entire performance is an exclamation point, and he swings it like a baseball bat.” And it gets an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s on my list. Hulu’s only other new add this week is Awoken, a 2019 horror flick. Sara West plays Karla, a medical student trying to save her brother Blake(Benson Jack Anthony) from the Fatal Familial Insomnia from which he suffers. But, of course, she finds something far more ominous may be the cause. Erik Thomson, Felicia Tassone, Matt Crook, Amelia Douglass and Rob MacPherson also star, and Daniel J. Phillips directed. And, though it gets only a 5.6 on IMDb, it won the SA & WA Gold Award at the Australian Cinematographers Society in 2019. So you decide. It’s too scary for me. I’d rather watch Spy, a 2011 British comedy series. Darren Boyd stars here as Tim Elliot, a down and out guy who goes to apply for a data processing position, only to find he’s really taken an exam for MI5, and ends up getting a job as a spy. His son(Jude Wright) and ex- wife(Dolly Wells) are unimpressed with him, his son threatening to leave to stay with his mother, and things can only get better. Robert Lindsay(My Family), Matthew Baynton, Rebekah Staton and Tom Goodman-Hill also star, with two seasons, and 17 episodes, now available to watch. The Metro(UK) wrote its “about a hapless, fish-out-of-water MI5 trainee, is a clever witty effort bolstered by its first-rate cast.”And it gets an amazing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m definitely watching.
The biggest add on Netflix this week is The Duchess, a British comedy series. Katherine Ryan, a Canadian comedian, stars as an single mom, living with her tween daughter Olive(Katy Byrne) in London, avoiding her ex like the plague, except maybe to use his sperm to have another child. Rory Keenan, Steen Raskopoulos, Michelle de Swarte, Sophie Fletcher and Doon Mackichan also star, and there are 6 episodes now available for streaming. Ryan served as executive producer and writer of this edgy and explicit series, that is definitely not for everyone. Variety called it a “tasteless misfire,” but ReadysteadyCut says Ryan is “on fire” in this series, and has “has hit the mark with style.” It only gets a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, but a 6.4/10 on IMDb, so you’ll want to see at least some of it yourself. I know I do. Netflix also offers #Alive, a 2020 South Korean horror movie. Yoo Ah-in stars as Oh Joon-wo as a kind of inept gamer, who finds himself stranded at home when an out of control virus(sound familiar?) takes over Seoul. But this virus causes screaming, bleeding from the eyes, and cannibalism(definitely worse than Covid-19) so he and a neighbor, Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye) must find a way to safety. Shin-Hye Park, Hyun-Wook Lee, Bae-soo Jeon and Hye-Won Oh also star, while Il Cho directs. This is a funny, quirky and scary take on zombies(or cannibals) that you don’t want to miss. Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Times says “[it’s] a nifty little thriller that proves that you can always find signs of life in the most undead of genres.” And it gets a 92(!) on Rotten Tomatoes. Just don’t watch alone. Also new on Netflix is The Social Dilemma, a 2020 doc. This alarming film from director Jeff Orlowski(Chasing Ice) takes us on a tour of social media, and how our data is meticulously tracked and manipulate. And how our news feeds on apps like Facebook, and even on Google, is manipulated for us to fit our views, and how fake news travels faster than real news. Also how addiction and even heavy usage, especially among young people, is causing depression and anxiety. And there experts abound here, with people like Robert McNamara, early investor in Facebook, Tristan Harris, formerly with Google and Anna Lembke, and addiction expert at Stanford. This is scary stuff, folks, and well edited, with great dynamic. It’s something we all need to see, and it gets a stunning 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Devika Girish of the New York Times writes, “[it] is remarkably effective in sounding the alarm about the incursion of data mining and manipulative technology into our social lives and beyond.” I’m tuning in. Netflix also has The Barrier, or The Valla, a dystopian series from Spain. This takes place in 2045 Madrid, and the city is walled off between the powerful, and the rest of the people, living in a populist police state. There is a also a virus circulating, thanks the World War II that devastates the environment and released disease. Unax Ugalde, Olivia Molina, Eleonora Wexler, Abel Folk, Ángela Molina and Laura Quirós also star, and this is brought to us by Daniel Écija, the creator of Vis a vis. A new episode is dropped every Friday, with 10 episodes in all. And it gets a 6.8/10 on IMDb, with Heaven of Horror calling it “fascinating to watch and extremely creepy. Definitely worth checking out.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Netflix offers My Octopus Teacher, a delightful 2020 Netflix documentary. Directed by Pippa Ehrlich, this follows Craig Foster, who started free diving off the coast of South Africa every day, when he was suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. And he met and befriended a female octopus, and filmed the whole adventure. All the scenes filmed in the kelp forest where he dove are stunningly beautiful, but the intimate relationship he developed with the beautiful octopus is especially exquisite. And this movie gets an amazing(and well-deserved) 8.6/10 on IMDb. New Scientist writes “[it]makes for a compelling documentary that may move you despite yourself……from the octopus’ engagement with Foster, clinging to his arm even as he surfaces to breathe – it seems fair to say the fascination is mutual.” I’m definitely watching.
Okay, so Amazon has no new adds this week, there’s still some good newer stuff to watch, like Undercover, a 2016 drama series from the BBC. Sophie Okonedo stars as Maya Cobbina, a British lawyer involved in a long fight to prove the innocence of U.S. death row inmate Rudy Jones, played by Dennis Haysbert. To do so, she’ll have to infiltrate an anti-rascism group. Adrian Lester, Derek Riddell, Tamera Lawrance, Danielt Ezra and Shannon Hayes also star, and there are 6 episodes in all to stream. And though it’s has a notoriously complicated plot, it also has an exemplary cast. And it gets a 6.9/10 on IMDb. I’m watching. Amazon also offers the first season of Wrong Man, a 2016 documentary series from Starz. This investigates the cases of three inmates- Evaristo Salas, Curtis Flowers, and Christopher Tapp – who all had served extensive sentences, even though they claim innocence. A team of experts examined each case in detail, travelling to visit the scene of the crime and the police involved in them. Producer Joe Berlinger won the Silver Telly at the Telly Awards for this show that’s a shocking look at the many wrongful convictions and sloppy detective work there is out there, important for all to see in a country that still employs the death penalty. And it gets a 6.7/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list. And, finally, Amazon has the classic 1977 movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. this is the original version of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi treatment about an alien visit to Earth, with Roy Neary, played perfectly by Richard Dreyfuss, being tortured by visions he doesn’t understand after a “close encounter.” The outstanding cast also includes Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr(!), François Truffaut(!), Bob Balaban and Carey Guffey. It’s a thrilling movie, full of the wonder and amazement at the thought of alien life visiting earth, as well as exemplary performances from all involved. And it gets a 7.6/10 on IMDb, and a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Arthur Knight of the Hollywood Reporter wrote “a film of incredible power and intensity. It is also, and ultimately, reassuring.” So watch it again, tonight. I am.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!