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 Books of Blood, a 2020 horror movie. There are three interweaving stories here, each loosely based on a story from Clive Barker‘s book series of the same name. The stories here all deal with people investigating what lies on the other side, i.e. death, and stars includes Anna Friel, Ravi Gavron, Britt Robertson, Nicholas Campbell and Yul Vazquez. Brannon Braga(Star Trek: First Contact) directs. But the scares are true to Barker, and the movie gets only a 24% on Rotten Tomatoes. Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com calls it “he greatest sin here is that Books of Blood is too generic to be remembered, despite bearing the name of someone who redefined the genre.” I’m not tuning in. Better to watch Judy & Punch, a 2019 black comedy. Giving an origin story for the comedy duo of Punch and Judy, Mia Wasikowska plays Judy, a skilled puppeteer in Victorian Seaside, England, performing with her ambitious and alcoholic husband, Punch(Damon Herriman), acting out their abusive marriage onstage. Until an unspeakable tragedy occurs due to Herriman’s abuse, and Judy sets out for revenge. Benedict Hardie, Tom Budge, Virginia Gay and Terry Norris also star, with Mirrah Foulkes directing(and writing) her debut feature here. And it gets a respectable 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it won two awards at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in 2019, including Best Actor for Herriman. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic writing of its ” a promising debut for Foulkes, and it’s always nice to see the tables turned on centuries of mistreatment.” I agree. I’m watching. Hulu has also added Sex Ed, an indie 2014 comedy starring Haley Joel Osment. Here, a grown-up Osment plays a young, rather inexperienced geometry teacher assigned a sex ed class in a Florida middle school. Glen Powell, Castille Landon, Retta(Parks& Recreation!), Matt Walsh and Isaac White are also featured players, and Isaac Feder directed. And it only gets a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, but pickings are thin on Hulu this week, and Osment saves the show. Jeannette Catsoulis of the NY Times wrote, “filthy conversations abound, mostly with a handful of trash-talking students and a series of female characters apparently conjured from a frat-boy wish list.” You decide. Hulu also offers The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a 2012 comedy. Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis star as two estranged brothers who decide to redo the do-deca-pentathalon(twenty five disparate games) that ended in a tie and broke up their relationship in high school. Jennifer Lafleur, Julie Vorus, Reid Williams and Brendan Robinson also star, with Jay and Mark Duplass(The Puffy Chair, Jeff, Who Lives at Home) directing. And this is another genuine Duplass film, with low key convincing performances that depict common human struggles. It gets a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Eric Kohn of Indiewire writing “although it assumes a light, inoffensive tone, Do Deca is unquestionably the brothers’ most personal film by virtue of its antiheroes, a pair of warring siblings seemingly inspired by the directors themselves.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Hulu has added Across the Line, a 2015 sports drama. Stephan James(Race) stars as Mattie Slaughter, a young black man seeking to get into professional hockey, playing in his Nova Scotia high school, Cole Harbour High, the site of a real life brawl driven by racial tensions. Sarah Jeffery, Shamier Anderson, Lanette Ware, Steven Love and Hugh Thompson also star, and Director X(Superfly) directed. And this film gets an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Barry Hertz of the Globe and Mail said “X’s strong visual storytelling skills carry the film home, and herald a promising big-screen career.” I’m watching.
Netflix’ buzziest add this week may be The Haunting at Bly Manor, their in-house retelling of the Henry James classic The Turn of the Screw. Here, Victoria Pedretti plays Dani Clayton, an au pair who goes to care for two orphans in England, hired by their uncle Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas), in 1986. The children(Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) are troubled, talking to people who aren’t(?) there, and Dani stars seeing things herself. T’Nia Miller, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel and Rahul Kohli also star, and this series was created by Mike Flanagan(The Haunting of Hill House). It gets an amazing 8.4/10 on IMDb, and an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Glen Weldon of NPR says “So no, Bly Manor isn’t as chilling as Hill House, but it is ultimately a good deal more satisfying, and it whets the appetite for any future installments.” I’m watching. But Netflix’ most exciting addition this week is The Forty Year-Old Version, a 2020 comedy from writer/director Radha Blank. Blank plays a director like herself, a bright young star who won the 30 under 30 award, for young artists, but is now nearing her fortieth birthday, with no new accomplishments, teaching a bunch of high school students. And rich (white)producers only want stereotypical material, with hip hop and drug dealers. Peter Y. Kim, Reed Birney, Oswin Benjamin, Jacob Ming-Trent and Welker White also star, and Blank won the Directing Award at Sundance this year for her work here. And the film gets a stunning 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and John Anderson of the Wall Street Journal says “This is funny stuff, contained in a film with terrific timing, punctuated by adoring surveys of New York City, some moody jazz notes and cutaways to commentary from the movie’s Greek chorus of neighbors and merchants in Harlem.” I’m tuning in again. Also , new on Netflix is Deaf U, a 2020 reality series. This covers on life at Gallaudet University, the esteemed school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C.. And at a college where the women outnumber the men, two to one, it’s about social life, but also about the social pressures the students face, like using ASL(American Sign Language) or lip reading, or using verbal speech. Its an eye opening series that Vulture calls a “great, fascinating documentary material, shot and edited with a really careful eye toward what details matter and how to balance personality and information.” and it gets an incredible 7.4/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list. Netflix also offers Hubie Halloween, the 2020 Adam Sandler horror/comedy pic. Sandler plays Hubie, an awkward outcast in Salem, Mass., who loves Halloween, but is seen as a joke by most of the townspeople. Until, of course, weird happenings occur on October 31, and Hubie is the only one who can save them. There are tons of stars appearing here, like Maya Rudolph, Steve Buscemi, Julie Bowen, Ray Liotta, Kenan Thompson and even George Wallace(!). And Steven Brill directed. But if I tell you Brill also directed Sandler‘s disastrous Little Nicky, you can get an idea of the quality of this movie. admittedly, it does better than the former, getting a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Rafer Guzman of Newsday writes, “Sandler‘s laugh-free special will land in your living room like a flaming paper bag.” But if you love Sandler no matter what, you might give it a try. I’d rather watch Saturday Church, a 2017 drama. Luka Kain plays Ulysses here, a teen with gender issues his family doesn’t sympathize with, especially after his father’s death, and they eventually kick him out of the house. But he finds comfort and belonging at Saturday Church, the underground ballroom scene, where men can cross dress and dance at a a Greenwich Village church. Margot Bingham, Jaylin Fletcher, Regina Taylor, Kate Bornstein, Marquis Rodriguez and Mj Rodriguez also star, while Damon Cardasis(Maggie’s Plan) directed. And this movie gets a 93%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes. Sheila O’Malley of RogerEbert.com called it a “sweet film with a purity of purpose and intent, elevating it above other films portraying similar struggles.” It’s on my list.
Amazon‘s big add for this week(and Halloween) is their Welcome to the Blumhouse series. This is a series of four stand-alone horror movies, produced by Blumhouse. Two are available now, the first being Black Box, starring Mamoudou Athie. Athie stars as Nolan, a photographer who survived a car accident that took the life of his wife, but gave him amnesia. he is treated by an eminent neurologist, played by Phylicia Rashad, who wants him to go through his life’s landmarks, wedding, etc., using hypnosis and a “black box,” helping him to relive his life. But he starts seeing things that do not belong there, morphing them into nightmares. Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola, Charmaine Bingwa, Donald Elise Watkins and Troy James are also featured players, and Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour directs in his feature film debut. And it gets a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Glen Kenny of the New York Times calling it an “engrossing thriller” and Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com says “It takes a special mix of ingenuity and daring to actualize a project like this…….you just know that the director is going to be around for a while.” I’m definitely tuning in. And the second in the Blumhouse series is The Lie, starring Joey King. In a remake of the 2015 German film, Wir Monster, King stars as Kayla, a teen who admits to her parents, played by Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos, that she killed her best friend, played by Devery Jacobs. They fly into a panic, of course, and decide to lie, and they begin to implicate an innocent man. Cas Anvar, Dani Kind, Patti Kim and Nicolas Lea also star, while Veena Sud directs. But this one doesn’t fare so well, with Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com saying “very little about this movie works, in spite of a certain ambition in telling a story based solely on unfathomable decisions.” And it gets only a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. And, finally, Amazon has added Archive, the 2020 scifi thriller. Here, Theo James plays a roboticist in 2038, striving to bring his deceased wife, Jules(Stacy Martin), back to life via that medium. Toby Jones, Rhona Mitra, Peter Ferdinando and Hans Peterson also star, and Gavin Rothery directs. And this movie gets a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.3/10 on IMDb. John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter calls its “a sleek and satisfying riff on familiar sci-fi themes.” I’m watching. I love scifi.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!