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 biggest add this week is Staged, a British comedy series. David Tennant(!) and Michael Sheen star here, as two actors on hold during Coid-19, like all of us, who are talked into rehearsing online by their director, Simon Evans. And everyone plays fictionalized versions of themselves, so we also get actress Georgia Tennant(and Tennant’s wife), Anna Lundberg, Lucy Eaton, Samuel L. Jackson(!) and Judi Dench(!!) starring, with Simon Evans writing this series, too. There are 6 episodes available now, with it getting a 92%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes, and an incredible 8.6/10 on IMDb. Deborah Ross of the Independent(UK) calls it “pure joy — that is, a pure, pure joy and, quite possibly, heaven — is the new comedy series, Staged. So funny. So so soooooo funny.” I’m definitely watching. Hulu has also added Babyteeth, a 2019 Australian drama/comedy. Eliza Scanlen stars as Milla Finlay, a teen with terminal cancer just about to undergo chemo, who meets up with Moses(Toby Wallace), a 23 year old just kicked out of his house and of questionable character. Milla’s parents definitely don’t approve when Eliza brings him home for a place to stay, specially since he steals things occasionally, including drugs. Essie Davis(Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!) and Ben Mendelsohn are great as parents trying not to be judgmental, and Emily Barclay, Eugene Gilfedder and Andrea Demetriades also star, while Shannon Murphy makes her feature film debut as director here. This movie won multiple awards including the Jury Prize at the FEST International Film Festival 2020, and Murphy winning Best Director prizes at the São Paulo International Film Festival and at Palm Springs International Film Festival. It gets a stunning 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Debbie Zhou of the Guardian calling it “a lovely, achey coming-of-age story that bursts with rare respect for its characters while tragedy peeks in through the curtains.” Its on my list. Also new on Hulu is The Fight, the 2020 documentary from producer Kerry Washington. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg(Weiner) follows the heroic efforts of the ACLU to fight some of the worst and most unconstitutional efforts of the current resident of the White House, including their successful fight to block Trump’s Muslim ban, and their efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child. They give intimate coverage of the lawyers like Josh Block and Chase Strangio, and even gained access to the ACLU‘s office in New York City, a first. And directors Kriegman and Steinberg teamed up; with their Waiting for ‘Superman’ editors Greg Finton and Kim Roberts, who tightly weave the different stories together into a impactful whole. And this film gets an amazing 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Christy Lemire of NPR Los Angeles writing “[its] very informative. It’s not an “eat your vegetables” thing at all; it is shot and cut very thrillingly and you really come to care and appreciate the hard work that these folks put in.” I’m watching again. And, finally, Hulu has added Sherman’s Showcase, the hilarious new series from IFC. Here, Sherman McDaniel(Bashir Salahuddin) and his sidekick Dutch Shepherd(Diallo Riddle)run a musical variety show, inspired by the 70’s show Soul Train and others, but this is definitely more unabashedly black and bold, with humor always front and center. And there are tons of famous guest stars, like Tiffany Haddish, Damon Wayans Jr., Quincy Jones(!), Marlon Wayans and Ne-Yo. And even John Legend(who is also executive producer) on their Black History Month Hour, which is as yet, nowhere to be found on Hulu. There are 8 episodes now available, and the shows gets an incredible 100%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes. Mike Hale of the New York Times calls it “is a pure jolt of stylized nostalgia, from its affectionate sendups of soul, R&B and hip-hop to its candy-colored sets with their abstract cutouts, traversed by roller-skating dancers.” And let’s face it, we can all use a laugh right now. I’m definitely tuning in.
The biggest add on Netflix this week has to be Ratched, the new psychological drama series. Sarah Paulson stars as the early Nurse Mildred Ratched, from Ken Kesey’s classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in 1947 Northern California, to start work in a leading psychiatric hospital, Lucia State Hospital. Finn Wittrock stars as a murderer institutionalized there, after murdering four priests, and her relations to him are murky. And there are many adventures here, that led up to her service in Oregon, years later. And this show has a stellar cast, with actors like Cynthia Nixon(!), Vincent D’Onofrio,Rosanna Arquette(!), Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo(!) and Jon Jon Briones, Alice Englert, Amanda Plummer and Harriet Sansom Harris also star, with Ryan Murphy(American Horror Story, The Politician) having developed the show. And there are 8 episodes now available. But as a big fan of Ken Kesey’s and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, this horror story isn’t true to the original nurse Ratched, she wasn’t evil, but something much worse, a cog in a very inhumane and broken system, so it’s not for me. And it’s not a hit with all the critics, getting just a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. Willa Paskin of Slate writes “no longer a chilling avatar of implacable, self-satisfied state violence who needs no reason to exist other than that the system will always find people like her to keep running, Nurse Ratched is now just another poor, misunderstood antihero.” But if you love Ryan Murphy or American Horror Story, this is your kind of show, with lots of allusions (and debts) to 40′s and 50’s movies and horror. And it gets a 7.9/10 on IMDb. You decide. Netflix also offers The Devil All the Time, the 2020 psychological thriller starring Tom Holland. Holland stars here as young Arvin Russell, son of a dead WWII vet (Bill Skarsgård)with a haunted past and living in Coal Creek, Ohio, in the 1950‘s. And when he’s given his late father’s wartime Luger for his birthday, the misery begins and just never stops. Murders, animal sacrifice, and torture abound, as do nasty characters like Reverend Preston Teagardin, played by Robert Pattinson. Mia Wasikowska, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Eliza Scanlan(Babyteeth, above) and Sebastian Stan also star, while Antonio Campos(Christine) directs. This is an exceptional downer of a movie, though, based on the novel of the same name of Donald Ray Pollock, who also narrates the film. but unless you’re a fan of Pollock‘s, I wouldn’t recommend it. It gets a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Bilge Ebiri of New York Magazine/Vulture calls it “we never really get to know any of these characters aside from their villainy and/or victimhood. They’re paper fish in a cardboard barrel.” But it does get a 7.2/10 on IMDb, so if you like gore and misery, it might be for you. I’d rather watch Residue, a 2020 drama from first-time director Merawi Gerima. Here, Gerima gives us the story of a young screenwriter Jay, played by Obinna Nwachukwu, returning to his hometown of Washington, D.C., to write a script about his childhood, only to find the home he knew no longer there, but gentrified. JaCari Dye, Jamal Graham, Taline Stewart, Dennis Lindsey, Obinna Nwachukwu and Derron Scott are all featured players here, and this film has won several awards, including a Special Mention at the 2020 Venice Days, and three awards at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2020. And this movie gets an awesome 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post wrote, “Merawi Gerima makes a stunning feature debut with Residue, a moving homage to the Northeast Washington neighborhood where he grew up.” It’s on my list. Netflix has also added The Last Word, a 2020 German comedy/drama series. Anke Engelke stars as Karla, a woman happily married to Stephan((Johannes Zeiler), who suddenly drops dead in the middle of dinner. In the chaos that ensues, and knowing she has to support her family, she decides to become a eulogist, speaking regularly at funerals. Juri Winkler and Nina Gummich plays her adult(and almost adult) children, and Thorsten Merten, Aaron Hilmer, Gudrun Ritter and Claudia Geisler-Bading round out the cast. But Engelke shines here, as a survivor, who may fall once or twice, but always gets back up. And the show gets an incredible 7.6/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely tuning in. And, finally, Netflix offers Izzy’s Koala World, a 2020 Australian nature docuseries. This show follows Izzy Bee, an 11 year-old koala whisperer in Australia, who, along with her parents, fosters koalas who needs help or hospitalization(usually orphans) in their home, before releasing them into the wild. She gather fresh eucalyptus for them each day, and gives them plenty of TLC, including cuddles. She even checks their poo for important clues to their health. There are 8 darling episodes here, and the series gets an astounding 8.9/10 on IMDb. And we all need a lift. I’m watching today.
Amazon‘s biggest add this week is All In: The Fight for Democracy, a 2020 documentary. This movie considers voter suppression in America today, and how it can upset election results, like in Stacy Abrams’ Georgia gubernatorial race of 2018. Then people(mostly of color) had multiple forms of I.D. rejected after waiting hours at the polls, and her competitor(and the eventual winner) had 53,000 voter registrations(again, mostly people of color) put on hold the day before the election. And the history of voter suppression is covered here too, with scholars and authors like Ari Berman are interviewed along with political experts like Andrew Young, Carol Anderson, and even the great John Lewis. And directors Lisa Cortés(The Apollo) and Liz Garbus(Ghosts of Abu Ghraib) give us a compelling balanced look at how voting rights have been challenged throughout our country’s history and continue to be threatened to this day. And it gets an amazing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Kevin Crust of the L.A. Times writing “[it] manages the triple-E feat of being entertaining, educational and enlightening.” I’m definitely tuning in. Amazon also offers Eaten by Lions, a 2019 British comedy. Based on a 2013 short film Going to Mecca, this movie follows two half-brothers, Omar, played by Antonion Aakeel and Pete, played by Jack Carroll, who, living with their gran after both their parents are eaten by lions(!), go on a trek to Blackpool to find Omar’s biological father after her death. On their way, the meet palmists, racists, and plenty of good people too. Darshan Jariwala, Nitin Ganatra, Tom Binns, Sarah Hoare, Vicki Pepperdine and Kevin Eldon also star, and Jason Wingard(The Uncertain Kingdom) directed. It’s a heartwarming and funny movie that gets an outstanding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. James Hanton of Outtake Magazine wrote “It brings out the human side of whoever is watching and leaves you in a good place by the time the credits roll.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Amazon has added The Goes Wrong Show, a 2019 British comedy series. Here members of the Mischief Theatre perform a different half hour play each episode, usually with ridiculous results, if not disastrous ones. There’s a period romance, spy thriller, a courtroom drama and even a Christmas fable. Henry Shields, Nancy Zamit, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Bryony Corrigan and Jonathan Sayer are the Mischief players featured here, and the series is directed by Martin Dennis. There are 6 episodes available now and they’re all deliciously funny. And the show gets an unbelievable 8.3/10 on IMDb. I’m tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!