Yes, we made it to the weekend, finally, and it’s time to review the best new movies and television shows added online this week, to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. And there are some good new adds this week, so let’s get started!
Hulu hasn’t added much of note this week, with a couple of okay adds like Gretel and Hansel, a 2020 horror fairy tale. Sophia Lillis(I’m Not Okay with This) plays Gretel and Samuel Leakey, her little brother Hansel, a pair of kids orphaned when their mother can no longer care for them, and they must fend for themselves in the terrifying forest. And, they just get by, with Gretel caring for her brother, until they come upon a glowing house that smells of gingerbread, and occupied, unfortunately, by Holda(Alice Krige). Holda is intent only upon eating Gretel‘s little brother, finding males especially toothsome. Charles Babalola, Jessica De Gouw, Abdul Alshareef and Beatrix Perkins also star, while Oz Perkins(I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House) directed. And, though I love the female forward story, with Gretel saving her brother from the wicked witch, I’m just not into fairy tales any more. This one gets a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, but Becca James of the Chicago Reader said “[its a] visually gruesome and beautiful bildungsroman that gives the classic story new life.” So if you’re in the mood for bedtime stories, you might give it a try. But Hulu also has added Mighty Oak, a 2020 comedy/drama. Here, Janell Jackson plays Gina Parrish, a young woman devastated by the death of her musician brother Vaughn (Levi Dylan) ten years before, while their band, Army of Love, was on tour, and so is brought back to life when she meets a boy, Oak(Tommy Ragen) who plays the guitar like the wind, and convinces her he’s her brother, reincarnated. And, of course, he idolizes Army of Love, and so all the former band members return, with a 10 year-old leading the way. Alexa PenaVega, Carlos PenaVega, Raven–Symoné(!), Levi Martinez and Rodney Hicks also star, with Sean McNamara(Soul Surfer) directing. But this is definitely the most absurd movie I’ve seen in awhile(though I didn’t watch the whole thing), so silly I don’t know how it managed a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com wrote, “this premise would excel far better, and go much deeper with its targeted themes, in something like a dark comedy; that Mighty Oak embraces this delusion with no sarcasm and a lot of wish fulfillment is at the very least worrisome.” Don’t bother, better to watch Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versaille, a 2020 documentary. Here, acclaimed chef(and one of my favorites) Yotam Ottolenghi(author of the Jerusalem Cookbook and Simple) was asked by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2018, to recreate some the sumptuous desserts enjoyed by the French court from 1682 to 1789. And this included some delicious treats and even an edible model of a garden from the period, so Ottolenghi hired some of the best chefs from around the world, like Dinara Kasko, Janice Wong, Ghaya Oliveira and Dominique Ansel to help construct some of those masterpieces. And they only have two days to create everything. The result, brought to us by director Laura Gabbert(City of Gold) is a movie that informs us not only about the food these people ate, but the culture and history of that period in France as well. And the doc gets a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas of ABC Radio (Australia) saying it “shrewdly balances a careful juggling act between allowing us to celebrate the breathtaking edible artworks that the film documents, while simultaneously demanding we question the broader social, cultural and economic symbolism of such work.” For a foodie like me, it’s heaven. I’m watching. And, finally, Hulu has The Princess Bride, the 1987 classic fantasy. Based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel of the same name, where a farmhand named Westley(Cary Elwes) must save his beloved princess Buttercup(Robin Wright) from the evil Prince Humperdinck(Chris Sarandon), whom she is to be forced to marry. But, of course, there is so much more that happens, like a kidnapping before the wedding, by a Sicilian boss(Wallace Shawn!) and fencing master Inigo Montoya(Mandy Patinkin!) seeking revenge for his father’s death. And it’s all as told by Grandpa Peter Falk, to his grandson Fred Savage. Betsy Brantley, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane(!), Billy Crystal and Peter Cook(!) also star, and Rob Reiner(When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men) directed. And, though this was nominated for only 1 Oscar(?), it won numerous other awards, like Best Director and Screenplay at the Hugo Awards, and the Peoples Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. And it’s now recognized as a classic, being named to Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movies list and its on The American Film Institute’s AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions list of the 100 greatest film love stories. And it gets an incredible 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8/10 on IMDb. Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine wrote “as you watch this enchanting fantasy, feel free to be thrilled or to giggle, as you wish.” And we all could use a giggle right now. I’m definitely tuning in.
Netflix has some great adds this week, but it’s biggest add has to be Pieces of a Woman, the 2020 drama. Vanessa Kirby(The Crown) stars as Martha, a woman whose decision, made with her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf), ends tragically, and shatters her existence. Her profound depression isolates her, and her decision to testify at the trial of her midwife, Eva(Molly Parker) incurs the wrath of her powerful mother, wonderfully played by Ellen Burstyn. Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, and Sarah Snook also star, and Kornél Mundruczó(White God) masterfully directs. And it’s important to note that writer Kata Wéber partly based this raw screenplay on her own experience losing her child with Mundruczó. Vanessa Kirby is almost certain to garner at least a nomination at the Academy Awards next month for her work here, and others(like director Mundruczó) may also be included. It’s a powerful, painful look at loss and grief, and it gets a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 8/10 on IMDb. Peter Travers of ABC News writes “in this emotional powerhouse about an expectant mother who experiences her worst nightmare, Vanessa Kirby delivers a tour de force that will leave you shattered.” Watch before award season… I will. Netflix has also added Lupin, a French mystery/thriller series. Here, Omar Sy plays gentleman thief Assane Diop, a Senegalese immigrant who knows how prejudice and bias can cause people like him to be overlooked, and uses that bias to his advantage. He is inspired by novelist Maurice Leblanc‘s famous Arsene Lupin, and when he sets his sights on Marie Antoinette’s necklace, he draws the attention of French detectives like Youssef (Soufiane Guerrab), who is, in turn, ignored by his white colleagues because of his Middle-Eastern descent. Anne Benoit, Clotilde Hesme, Etan Simon, Ludivine Sagnier and Nicole Garcia also star, and this series is brought to us by George Kay of Killing Eve(!) and François Uzan(Family Business). And that’s reason enough for me to watch. But the series also gets an amazing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Robert Daniels of RogerEbert.com writes “[it] is an addictive, clever puzzle that combines elements from Luther, Sherlock Holmes, and Inside Man for an engrossing experience,” and that it “is the first great show of 2021.” I’m definitely watching. Also new on Netflix is Pretend It’s a City, a 2020 limited comedy series. Here, Fran Lebowitz(!) and Martin Scorsese(!) take us on a tour of New York City and it’s great irritations, like the transit system, or the NYC Hall of Records, or the library system. During the seven episodes, the pair sit and take off on different aspects of the city that drive them crazy, or inversely, delights them. They hold their interviews at different historic sites in NYC, like the Players Club, or better still, the Queens Museum’s Panorama of the City of New York, with Leibowitz (with protective footgear) walking about the model. And there are even guests, like David Letterman(!) and archival footage of people like Toni Morrison and Spike Lee. And historical footage, too. And though it gets only a 57%(?) on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you’re a Lebowitz fan like me, you will eat this up. Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com says “this is a very funny production…..Whether pointing out the irony of art auctions (“people applauded the price” but not the painting) or mocking her horrific luck with real estate, Fran Lebowitz’s delivery is masterful.” I’m tuning in. Netflix also offers Stuck Apart, a 2021 Turkish comedy. Engin Günaydin plays Aziz, here, a middle aged man stuck in a rut, regretting many aspects of his life and so trying to break up with his girlfriend or excise his sister and her son from his apartment, where the boy terrorizes him. Bu to no avail. Haluk Bilginer, Binnur Kaya, Öner Erkan, Fatih Artman and Hülya Duyar also star, with Durul Taylan and Yagmur Taylan co-directing. And this film gets a respectable 6.2/10 on IMDb, while giving us a great chance to get to see some award-winning Turkish actors here in the States. It’s on my list. And, finally, Netflix has 100% Halal, a 2020 Indonesian drama. Anisa Rahma plays Anisa Santosa, a teen who at 18 follows her father’s wishes and married the man, Putra Alfatih(Anandito Dwis) he has chosen for her, only to find that she may not be 100% halal, or religiously acceptable, thereby nullifying their marriage and making their child illegitimate. Kinaryosih, Arafah Rianti, Ariyo Wahab, Fitria Rasyidi and Niniek L. Karim also star, and Jastis Arimba(Tales From Jarkarta) directs. And this movie gets an amazing 7.2/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list.
And Amazon’s huge add this week is Herself, the 2020 drama. Clare Dunne plays Sarah, a young woman who leaves an abusive partner with her two children, only to find herself unable to escape temporary accommodations. After being repeatedly denied loans to buy a house, she decides to build a small home herself, and finds the help of friends and strangers vital. Harriet Walter, Molly McCann, Ruby Rose O’Hara, Rebecca O’Mara, Ian Lloyd Anderson and Conleth Hill also star, while Phyllida Lloyd(The Iron Lady) directs, and Clare Dunne actually cowrote the script(!). And this movie gets a 93%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes, and Sheila O’Malley of RogerEbert.com says “[Phyllida Lloyd] is not afraid of reaching for big emotions, utilizing inspirational needle-drops and montages that show the house coming into existence. But there’s something else going on here, something that makes all of this a deeper and more powerful story.” And don’t be surprised if this movie get some nominations later this month. I’m tuning in. Amazon has also added Hope Gap, the 2019 drama starring Annette Bening(!). Bening stars here as Grace, a woman whose life is upended when her husband, Edward(Bill Nighy!), of 29 years is leaving her for another woman. And their unhappy son Ben(Josh O’Connor of The Durrells) is caught in the middle. Aiysha Hart, Ryan McKen, Steven Pacey, Nicholas Burns and Rose Keegan also star, and William Nicholson directed as well aafter adapting his 1999 play The Retreat from Moscow for this production. And this movie gets a respectable 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Paul Byrnes of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote “none of it lacks credibility. As a portrait of the breakup of a marriage, and the three-cornered pain of the situation, it’s completely convincing.” Or just tune in to catch the always wonderful Bill Nighy. I know I will. And, finally, Amazon has added the 1st season of the Irish comedy series Finding Joy. Yes, until February 1st, we can all watch this delightful show about Joy, played by Amy Huberman(Cold Feet), a hapless journalist trying to reinvent herself and restart her life after a messy and painful breakup with her boyfriend Aiden (Lochlann O’Mearáin). Which doesn’t always have the ideal results. Laura Whitmore, Hannah James-Scott, Peter McDonald(as the voice of Joy’s dog), Aisling Bea, Jennifer Rainsford and Paul Reid also star, and there are 6 episodes to gobble up before the end of this month, when it returns to the exclusive environs of Acorn tv. Oh, and Huberman created and wrote this series as well as starring in it! And it gets an 80%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes. I am definitely tuning in.
So sit back and binge this holiday weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!