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 most impressive(and most important add this week is the incredible 2020 documentary Totally Under Control. Brought to us by award winning directors Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, this covers our nation’s sad response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as told by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, as well as virologists and disease experts, risking their careers to bring the truth about the Federal Government’s response to light. Filmed in secrecy, doctors like Taison Bell of the ICU Director at University of Virginia Medical Center describe the helplessness at the rising death toll, and Francis Riedo, medical director of Infectious Disease at Evergreen Health in Seattle, tells of losing his patient to Covid, while our president celebrated zero deaths from Covid. An official from Jared Kushner’s laughable Covid team even speaks of the lack of response, all the while we are amply supplied with Trump’s own statements downplaying the danger of the virus, while complimenting himself and his administration on their handling of the pandemic. It’s shocking, but requisite viewing for every American, if we want to avoid such a disastrous response to disease outbreak again. And it gets a stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly writes its “a methodical, devastating account of the American government’s malfeasance and failure to act from the top down.” I’m tuning in. Hulu also has Cyrano, My Love, a 2019 French comedy. This is a delightful imagining of what Edmond Rostand(Thomas Solivéres), author of Cyrano, went through to write the French classic in 1897, starting with the bare bones of an idea when in the dire need for money. The chaotic development of a classic ensues. Olivier Gourmet, Mathilde Seigner, Clémentine Célarié, Alice de Lencquesaing, Tom Leeb and Lucie Boujenah also star and Alexis Michalik directed and wrote this adaption of his play Edmond. Cinematographer Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci did a wonderful job filming this in the Czech Republic, resurrecting 1890’s Paris. And it gets an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. Glen Kenny of RogerEbert.com wrote, ” as backstage movies go, this isn’t as profound as Topsy Turvy but it’s almost as much fun as Shakespeare in Love.” I’m definitely watching. And for Halloween, Hulu has 31, a 2016 horror movie. Written, directed, and produced by Rob Zombie, this takes place during Halloween 1976, when a group of carnival workers are attacked by a group of people dressed as scarecrows(?) and taken to a strange building, where they are to play a game of 31. Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs(!), Meg Foster(!) and Malcolm McDowell(!) star. But this is a pretty sad movie, which only gets a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes. But Simon Abrams of RogerEbert.com said, “Zombie may not be working outside of his comfort zone, but 31 is one of his most impressive films to date.” If you desperately need horror, you might tune in. I’d rather watch , The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 cult classic horror musical. Here, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick star as very naive engaged couple whose car breaks down near a castle run by Frank-N-Furter (played by the wonderful Tim Curry) an alien transvestite. and chaos and fun ensue. Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Peter Hinwood and Meat Loaf(!) also star, while Jim Sharman directed. And since we can’t all go to the theatre for a sing-a-long, why not dress up at home, and party on. And it gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.4/10(!) on IMDb. Matt Brunson of CreativeLoafing wrote, “famous for its allure as an audience-participation event, this adaptation of the stage musical works just fine as a solo viewing at home, with no resultant diminishment of its highlights.” It’s on my list.
The most exciting add on Netflix this week has to be The Queen’s Gambit, the 2020 drama miniseries. Anya Taylor-Joy(and young Isla Johnston) star as Beth Harmon, an orphan chess prodigy who survives a car wreck that kills her mother, and then overcomes addiction, to become a chess champion. Bill Camp, Marcin Dorocinski, Moses Ingram, Christiane Seidel and Marielle Heller also star, and there are seven episodes to binge on now. Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, this series gets an amazing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 8.8/10(!) on IMDb. Allison Shoemaker of RogerEbert.com writes “anchored by a magnetic lead performance and bolstered by world-class acting, marvelous visual language, a teleplay that’s never less than gripping, and an admirable willingness to embrace contradiction and ambiguity, it’s one of the year’s best series.” I’m definitely tuning in. Netflix, unfortunately, has also add the new production of Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier‘s classic novel. Here, Lily James stars as the supposedly homely unnamed protagonist, who marries Maxim DeWinter(Armie Hammer), a widower whose beautiful wife Rebecca died years earlier. And when she returns with him to his ancestral home of Manderlay, she finds it hard to live with Rebecca’s ghost, especially with her still faithful servant Mrs. Danvers(Kristin Scott Thomas) at hand. Keeley Hawes, Ann Dowd, Sam Riley and Tom Goodman Hill also star, and Ben Wheatley(High-Rise) directed. But this is adaptation not worthy of the book, instead giving you a period piece, with lots of glamor. And it gets just a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News writing ” it is a limp redo with gorgeous production values and gorgeous people.” And since the Hitchcock’s original Rebecca isn’t available for streaming anywhere now, read the book. It’s a much better experience. Netflix has also added I am Woman, the Australian biopic. This tells of the life of Helen Reddy, Australian singing sensation of the 1970′s, performing with songs like I Am Woman. Tilda Cobham-Hervey plays Reddy, and the film portrays her travails, trying to become a singer, while also being the single mother of a three year-old, in a disapproving 1960‘s world. Danielle Macdonald, Evan Peters, Matty Cardarople, Rita Rani Ahuja and Molly Broadstock also star, with Chelsea Cullen providing Cobham-Hervey’s singing voice, and Unjoo Moon directed and produced the film. And it gets a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Christy Lemire of NPR Los Angeles calling saying its “a very standard biopic in many ways, but the lead performance is so warm and accessible… A cool little slice of American history.” If you need a bit of music. But Netflix also offers Bending the Arc, a 2017 documentary. Directors Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos show us how the NGO Partners In Health, founded by Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim and activist Ophelia Dahl in the 1980′s, fought to combat disease and hunger in Haiti, amidst poverty and poor standards of living. And despite nay-sayers and pessimists(like the World Bank and even the World Health Organization), they achieved outstanding results in fighting HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis. And now they have spread their successful formula to other countries, and other diseases, like Ebola. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck served as executive producers of this film that won the Best Documentary Award at the Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF). And it gets an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Keough of the Boston Globe wrote, “For proof that hope and determination make a difference, pessimists and cynics need look no further than Bending the Arc.” I agree. I’m watching. And, finally, Netflix has added Yes, God, Yes, a 2020 coming of age comedy. Natalia Dyer(Stranger Things!) stars here as Alice, a teen in Catholic school suddenly confronted with sexual curiosity, in a world that doesn’t want to inform her. Alisha Boe, Timothy Simons, Susan Blackwell, Donna Lynne Champlin and Wolfgang Novogratz also star, and Karen Maine(co-writer of Obvious Child) directed. And Maine gives us a very honest depiction of the awkward sexuality of teenagers, untarnished by shame. And this film gets an incredible 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Adam Graham of the Detroit News called it ” a story of teenage innocence and religious guilt, and it’s told in a smart, warmhearted manner, without turning sarcastic or cruel.” I’m tuning in.
Amazon has a huge add this week with Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the 2020 comedy we’ve all heard so much about. a sequel to the amazingly successful 2006 Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen once again stars as Borat, Kazakh TV star and journalist who again travels to the US to offer his teenage daughter Tutar(Maria Bakalova) to Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani, to save face for his country. Dani Popescu, Tom Hanks(!), Manuel Vieru, Miroslav Tolj, Alin Popa and Ion Gheorghe also star, and Jason Woliner(Eagleheart) directs. And, though it isn’t as shocking as the first film, it’s still full of laughs. It gets an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.1/10 on IMDb. K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone says “the thrill of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm isn’t just that it takes on the Trump administration, or more pointedly, America under Donald Trump. The thrill is in how smoothly, how improbably, Cohen and his collaborators have engineered it all.” I’m watching. Amazon has also added The Booksellers, a 2020 documentary. Here, director D.W. Young takes us on a tour of the New York rare book sellers scene, and the sometimes unusual people who keep it going. And this is in the computer age, when the value of certain rare volumes plummeted with the availability of the same material online, but manuscripts have soared at the same time. Stars like Fran Leibovitz even appear, and the whole thing is accompanied by David Ullman’s jazzy music. And it gets a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you love books like me, tune in. And, finally, for your Halloween viewing, Amazon has added Train to Busan, the 2016 horror flick. A chemical leak at plant in South Korea causes a sudden zombie apocalypse, and a train carrying workaholic Seok-woo(Gong Yoo) and his daughter Su-an(Kim Su-an) to Busan is overrun by the bloodthirsty undead. Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee and Kim Eui-Sun also star, while Yeon Sang-ho directed. This is a modern horror classic that gets an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com called it “The most purely entertaining zombie film in some time, finding echoes of George Romero‘s and Danny Boyle‘s work, but delivering something unique for an era in which kindness to others seems more essential than ever.” Watch if you dare.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!