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 buzziest add this week is Helstrom, the new Marvel horror series. Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon star as Daimon and Ana Helstrom, who inherited dark powers from their father, a serial killer. But his offspring are demon hunters, and their mother((Elizabeth Marvel) may herself be possessed. June Carryl, Ariana Guerra, Robert Wisdom, Alain Uy and Daniel Cudmore also star, and there are 10 episodes available to stream now. But there’s nothing original here, and very few thrills, as well. It gets only a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Vikram Murthi of Variety saying its “a horror series in name and appearance only, Helstrom remains a lame-duck brand property to the core.” Luckily, Hulu also offers The Painted Bird, a 2019 drama. Based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Jerzy Kosiński, this follows an unnamed boy, played by Petr Kotlár, who traverses Nazi occupied Poland, after his parents are taken to a concentration camp. He meets many people along the way, but finds little protection or haven. Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård, Julia Valentova, Barry Pepper, Udo Kier and Julian Sands also star, and Czech film-maker Václav Marhoul directed in beautiful black and white. It was a multiple award winner on the festival circuit, mostly for its wonderful cinematography by Vladimír Smutný. And it gets a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. But be forewarned, it can be a crushingly depressing look at the effect of war on children. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian called it “a brutal kind of ordeal, but eerie, unearthly and even beautiful sometimes: a bad dream that leaks into waking reality.” You decide. Hulu has also added the 2019 documentary Life Without Basketball. This features the story of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, the first Division I female basketball player to wear a hijab while playing for the University of Memphis and Indiana State. But when she went on to a professional career that looked promising, she was denied the right to wear that hijab by the international governing body of basketball (FIBA). She felt she had no choice by to forego playing, but went on to challenge the rule, eventually succeeding in getting them to overturn the biased rule. Directed by Jon Mercer and Tim O’Donell, it is an uplifting and inspiring look at the fight Arabs and other religious minorities have to wage for their rights every day in a predominantly Christian Western world. And it gets a 6.9/10 on IMDb. I’m watching. And, finally, Hulu has Bad Hair, the 2020 horror farce. Elle Lorraine stars as Anna Bludso, a woman who goes to get a hair weave in 1989, in order to mix in better and further her career in the music industry. But her father, played by Blair Underwood, feels she’s sold out, and she begins to suspect her new hair has an (evil) life of it’s own. Jay Pharoah, Lena Waithe, Kelly Rowland, Laverne Cox and Chanté Adams also star, and Justin Simien(Dear White People) directs. And, though it only gets a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, I agree with Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com, who writes, “with echoes of camp, B-movies, ’80s hip-hop, and female empowerment films of that era, Bad Hair is stunningly ambitious, and that overwhelms most of my issues with it.” I’m definitely tuning in.
The biggest add on Netflix this week has to be The Trial of the Chicago 7, a 2020 movie from Aaron Sorkin. This tells the tale of the trial of the notorious Chicago 7, seven men that were ridiculously held responsible for the mass riots in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Convention, and charged by the Federal Government. The seven included Tom Hayden(Eddie Redmayne), Abbie Hoffman(Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin(Jeremy Strong),and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Noah Robbins, Danny Flaherty, Alex Sharp and John Carroll Lynch also play defendants. Frank Langella(!), Mark Rylance(!), Joseph Gordon-Levitt(!), John Doman and Caitlin Fitzgerald also star, and this was slated for theatrical release, only to be shifted to Netflix(lucky us) due to the pandemic. It gets an amazing 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8/10 on IMDb. Owen Gleiberman of Variety writing, “[it] is the rare drama about the 1960′s that’s powerful and authentic and moving enough to feel as if it were taking place today.” I’m watching. Netflix has also added Social Distance, a new anthology drama series about life during Covid-19. Filmed with physical distancing, each episode here contains the story of families, friends and individuals are dealing with the isolation, solitude and confinement that is required during a pandemic. Oscar Nuñez(The Office), Danielle Brooks(Orange Is the New Black),Asante Blackk(When They See Us), Mike Colter(Luke Cage) and Brian Jordan Alvarez are just some of the stars that are featured in this series, and it’s all brought to us by Jenji Kohan, the creator of Orange Is the New Black, and Hillary Weisman Graham. It’s a sad poignant look at life during lockdown, with a wonderful cast. It only gets a 4.4/10 on IMDb, but for the great acting, it’s on my list. Also new on Netflix is Kartini: Princess of Java, a 2017 Indonesian biographical drama. This tells the tale of the life of Raden Ayu Kartini, played by Dian Sastrowardoyo, the famed Indonesian activist for women’s rights, and education for girls. It covers her family life growing up as a princess in central Java, and negotiating with the males of her family for everyday things like visiting the beach, to meeting with Dutch friends and, later, opening schools for girls. Ayushita, Acha Septriasa, Christine Hakim, Adinia Wirasti and Reza Rahadian also star, and Hanung Bramantyo directed. It’s an inspiring and troubling look at what women had to contend with in a heavily patriarchal society, and how far we still have to go. And it gets an amazing 7.7/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely tuning in. Netflix also has Grand Army, the 2020 drama series. Loosely based on Kate Cappiello’s Slut: The Play, this tells the tale of 5 students as they navigate the harsh realities of life at Grand Army High School in Brooklyn. Odessa A’zion, Odley Jean, Amir Bageria, Maliq Johnson and Amalia Yoo star as those kids, with Alphonso Romero Jones II, Sydney Meyer, Thelonius Serrell-Freed, Anthony Ippolito, Naiya Ortiz and Crystal Nelson also featured players. And Katie Cappiello herself wrote the first four episodes of this ten episode series. it gets an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is quite graphic in it’s depictions of both sex and violence. And it gets an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone calls it “In its best moments, Grand Army enters rare air for high school shows, elevating surprisingly close to the genre’s thoughtful standard-bearer, My So-Called Life.” It’s on my list. And , finally, Netflix has added La Révolution, a French horror drama series. Taking place in 1789, it tells an alt-history of France during the revolution, when people are seized by a strange disease that turns their blood blue(?), and though they seem to die, they reawaken only to become stronger and more dangerous. Marilou Aussilloux, Amir El Kacem, Isabel Aimé Gonzalez Sola, Lionel Erdogan and Doudou Masta star, and there are 8 episodes available for binging now. And it gets a 6.2/10 on IMDb, and while it’s way too gruesome for me, I know you need horror.
Amazon’s biggest add this week has to be Time, the 2020 acclaimed documentary directed by Garrett Bradley(Below Dreams). Here, Bradley tells of Fox Rich, an entrepreneur, author and mother of six who fought for years for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who received a incredible 60 year sentence in the Louisiana State Pen, known as Angola. Fox herself did time for the robbery, and admits their guilt, but argues quite forcibly that people of color, especially men, receive much harsher sentences, resulting in what she says is ” nothing but slavery,” Her two decades of battle are documented in glorious black and white home movies of her six sons, growing up never really knowing their father, and her fight to support them, as well. This was a multiple award winner, earning Best Director for Bradley at Sundance 2020, and the Golden Eye at the 2020 Zurich Film Festival. And it gets an incredible 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. The LA Times called it “a wrenching story of love and injustice, is one of 2020’s great documentaries.” A must see for all of us. Amazon has also added two more horror episodes in the Welcome to the Blumhouse horror series, the first being Evil Eye. Sunita Mani stars as Pallavi, a young woman who seemingly meets the ideal man, played by Omar Maskati. But her mother(Sarita Choudhury of Mississippi Masala!) is suspicious, scarred by an earlier, very abusive relationship of her own, so much so that she becomes convinced it is the same man. Bernard White, Anjali Bhimani, Lena Clark and Asad Durrani also star, while Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani directed. It only gets a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the cast is amazing, and David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter calls it “a taut thriller that remains engrossing, deftly blending elements of romance, cultural division and supernatural menace into a family drama with a poignant mother-daughter focus.” I’m watching. Amazon‘s other Blumhouse horror serving is Nocturne. Juliet(Sydney Sweeney) and Vivian (Madison Iseman) are twin sisters equally devoted to the piano, but Vivian outshines her sister, and when Juliet happens to read a cryptic and sinister book of a deceased classmate, things unravel for her sister. Jacques Colimon, Julie Benz, and Brandon Keener also star, and Zu Quirke directs. And it too gets rather tepid reviews, with a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 5.7/10 on IMDb. Devika Girish of the New York Times says “Contrivances are par for the course in this genre, but Nocturne lacks the stylistic flair to make them fun.” But if you need horror….I’d rather watch What the Constitution Means to Me, a 2020 documentary comedy performance . This is an adaptation of Heidi Shreck’s 2019 Broadway show of the same name, where she revisits what the constitution means to her, and for all of us, after winning enough Constitution-themed contests to pay her way through college 25 years ago. It’s an enlightening, electrifying look at life in the United States, one that favors white men above all others. She touches upon violence against women, Covid and many relevant topics, and makes it shockingly fresh, funny and interesting. Marielle Heller directs here, and the show gets an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m definitely tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!