That’s right, 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 are some big new adds this week, so let’s get started!
Well, Hulu‘s one big add this week is The Jinkx & Dela Holiday Special, a 2020 movie. here, drag queens Jinkx and Dela, both of Ru Paul’s Drag Race fame, have a holiday party, or rather, Dela wants to give Jinkx that “perfect Christmas she never had,” which Jinkx said she never wanted. But it’s a lot of fun, with music and dancing, and costumes. Elby Brosch, Moscato Extatique, Jerick Hoffer, Michael Lee and Cameron Birts, while Benjamin Putnam directs. Entertainment Weekly says “at its core is a tale relevant to the hectic state of the world in 2020.” And it gets an amazing 8.6/10 on IMDb. I’m tuning in. And that’s it for Hulu‘s notable new adds, but there are some overlooked gems like Alice in Paris, a 2017 series. This is all about Alice(Alysse Hallali), a voracious college student in Paris, who has absolute taste, meaning she can determine every ingredient in food. She eats her way across Paris, and walks us through different, rarely seen areas of the historic city. And there’s always slapstick and humor involved. Alix Bénézech, Nathanaël Bez, Roda Canioglu, Clara Choï and Paul-Eric Hallali, and the series is directed by Thibaud Martin and Alysse Hallali. No episode is too long, about 20 minutes, and each is delectable. And while we can’t travel, this can sustain Francophiles. The series gets an amazing 8.9/10 on IMDb, and there are 8 episodes to binge on now. I’m watching. Hulu also offers It Had to Be You, a 2017 romcom. Cristin Milioti stars as a jingle writer, Sonia, who has great dreams and aspirations, and never wants to marry. So when her boyfriend, Chris(Dan Soder), proposes, she panics. Halley Feiffer, Kate Simses, Erica Sweany and Mark Gessner also star, and Sasha Gordon directed. The movie only gets a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, but Milioti alone makes the movie worth seeing, with her quirky portrayal of Sonia. Gary Goldstein of the L.A. Times said its “a memorable romantic comedy that stands to bring back the genre’s good name, It Had to Be You is as funny, endearing and enjoyably off-kilter as its adorable star, Cristin Milioti.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Hulu has Waiting for the Barbarians, a 2019 historical drama. Mark Rylance(!) stars here, as a man known only as the Magistrate, ruling in a secluded outpost in South Africa, who maintains coexistence during apartheid, and abhors violence. But that tenuous peace is challenged when Col. Joll (Johnny Depp), a high-ranking official shows up and threatens violence against the country’s original inhabitants, whom he calls “barbarians.” Robert Pattinson, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Greta Scacchi(!), David Dencik and Sam Reid also star, while Ciro Guerra(Birds of Passage) directs. And this is all based on acclaimed author J.M. Coetzee‘s 1980 novel of the same name. And, though it only gets a 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 5.8/10 on IMDb, Coetzee’s material and Rylance’s performance make it well worth seeing. I’m tuning in.
The biggest(and best) add on Netflix this week is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a 2020 drama. The great Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey, the commanding singer called the Mother of the Blues, and this mainly centers around her 1927 recording session in Chicago, where she grapples with a patronizing white producer(Jeremy Shamos) that wants to control her music, and a young trumpet player, Levee, played by the exceptional Chadwick Boseman. Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Jonny Coyne and Taylour Paige also star, with George C. Wolfe, a tony-winning director, directing. Oh, and Denzel Washington produced, and this is based, of course, on the award-winning 1984 play by the venerable August Wilson. And it gets an amazing 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, sure to be an award nominee next January. Bob Mondello of NPR says “August Wilson‘s tale of what it means to be a Black artist in a racist society is hardly new, but the telling of that tale has never been more artful or more urgently performed than it is in this incarnation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” So watch it twice. Netflix has also added Tiny Pretty Things, a 2020 drama series. Kylie Jefferson plays Neveah, here, a young ballerina unexpectedly accepted into the top ballet academy in Chicago Archer School, after another top student, Cassie Shore(Anna Maiche) falls four stories to her death. By accident, supposedly. Casimere Jollette, Daniela Norman, Lauren Holly, Bayardo De Murgula and Jess Salgueiro also star, and there are 10 episodes to enjoy now. It’s a soapy show that only gets a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s soapy diverting fun for those that want it. Netflix also offers How to Ruin Christmas: Wedding, a 2020 comedy series from South Africa. Busi Lurayi plays Tumi Sello, the family rebel who reluctantly returns home for her favored sister Beauty‘s(Thando Thabethe) Christmas wedding. Of course, things don’t even come off as planned. Nambitha Ben-Mazwi, Yonda Thomas, Lethabo Bereng and Rami Chuene also star, and there are 3 episodes to feast on now. This show wonderfully captures the family dynamics common all over the world and the cast is wonderful. And it gets a 6.5/10 on IMDb. Its definitely on my list. And, of course, Netflix has added horror, with Sweet Home, a 2020 South Korean series. This time, an apartment building, Green Home, is the inhabitant’s haven from zombies that have taken over the area, viciously attacking with any number of imaginative ways, after being infected with a strange virus(obviously worse than Covid). Song Kang, Lee Jin-wook and Lee Si-young ae just some of the residents whose stories are told as they grapple with zombie infection and danger, and Lee Do-hyun, Go Min-si, Kim Nam-hee and Kim Sang-ho also star, and there are 10 hair-raising episodes to enjoy now. And the show gets an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.2/10 on IMDb. But beware, this show was called “a relentless, gore-soaked good time.” So too scary for me. You decide. And, finally, Netflix offers The Wedding Shaman, a 2019 Indonesian drama. Atiqah Hasiholan plays Yasnina Putri, a wealthy woman who believes only in money, who then loses all that wealth and her standing in a scam for which she ends up, wrongly, getting the blame. She is left with housing in a rural area, where her landlady Koes Majanti(Tutie Karana) forces her to become her assistant as a pemaes, a Javanese shaman in the ethnic matrimonial system. Yasnina goes on to become a wedding shaman, and finds connection, and of course love, in a place far from home. Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Marthino Lio and Oxcerila Paryana also star, with Farishad I. Latjuba directing. Tutie Kirana was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Festival Film Indonesia for her work here, and this film gets an incredible 7.1/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely watching.
The biggest adds on Amazon this week are the last two adds to Steve McQueen’s Small Axe film anthology, the first of which is Alex Wheatle, which I regrettably missed last week. Sheyi Cole plays the title character, Alex Wheatle, a real-life award-winning author of young people’s books, who finds himself in jail at the beginning of the film, and then we are told of his journey in life, through white foster homes and the abuse there, and seeing injustice throughout his neighborhood, London and the country as a whole. Johann Myers plays the drug kingpin Cutlass he finally becomes involved with, and Jonathan Jules, Cecilia Noble, Robbie Gee, Elliot Edusah and Ashley McGuirre also star, and this film gets an incredible 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone writes “it is not the most exceptional film in this altogether exceptional series. But it is just as indispensable as everything else here.” And I agree, let’s all watch. But the final movie in the Small Axe series was released this week- Education. This tells the moving story of 12-year-old Kingsley Smith, played by Kenyah Sandy, who dreams of being an astronaut, but though he’s bright and motivated, he is sent to a “special” school because of his reading disability and resultant low I.Q. scores. the fact that large percentages of Black and African students were sent to these schools in the 70’s and beyond in Britain is not overlooked, and the transfer causes Kingsley and his immigrant family no end of difficulties. His mom Agnes (Sharlene Whyte) is treated with patronizing disrespect by school officials and his older sister Stephanie (Tamara Lawrance) reads up on the inequities towards blacks and the subpar school, Durrants, itself, in a pamphlet. So her mother acts on it. Josette Simon, Naomi Ackie, Daniel Francis, Adrian Rawlins and Kate Dickie also star, and McQueen and DP Shabier Kirchner (“Bull”) shot on 16mm in the same manner of movies and TV of the 70′s, to amazing effect. The depiction of the overt racism and official bullying of West Indian(and other children of color) in the British school system is especially appalling and upsetting. And this film gets a stunning 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dominic Griffin of the Baltimore Beat writes “somewhat surprisingly, the last and shorted installment in the Small Axe series has turned out to be its best. A deeply personal and resonant look at how foundational systemic issues can determine one’s future.” I’m definitely watching. And, finally, Amazon has added George Gently, a series from Acorn TV. Now, we can all watch Season 1(without paying for an Acorn tv subscription), this series where Martin Shaw plays Detective Chief Inspector George Gently. He gets transferred from Scotland Yard to the more dull Northeast England, specifically Newcastle upon Tyne, where he feels out of place in the 1960’s. Lee Ingleby plays Detective Sergeant John Bacchus, and Lisa McGrillis and Simon Hubbard plays constables who help him in his quest to fight crime. Tom Hutch, Helen Coverdale, Katie Anderson and Melanie Clark Pullen also star, as well as a host of great guest stars you would expect on a BBC One series. This show is based, loosely, on novels by Alan Hunter, and it won an Edgar Award in 2016 for Best Episode in a TV Series. And there are only thee episodes in Season 1, so you can easily catch them all before January 1, when it goes back into the Acorn tv purview. And it gets an amazing 8/10 on IMDb. I’m tuning in. I love a mystery.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!