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 are some good new adds this week, so let’s get started!
Okay, you’re right, Hulu has very few new adds this week, good or otherwise. Notturno is the one good new movie added, a 2020 documentary. Directed by Gianfranco Rosi(Fire at Sea), this was three years in the making, as he travelled the Middle East, from Syria and Lebanon to Afghanistan and Iraq, to see how the warfare and violence there have fractured and traumatized the the people who survived war, and seek to begin anew. This movie is filled with at once stunningly beautiful and horrifying vignettes, telling the stories of children who survive their parents, parents who survive their children, psych patients and female soldiers. It’s hard to watch, but equally important to see how not only ISIS, but also incursions by Western troops have devastated the landscape and many inhabitants of these beautiful, ancient lands. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion and won the Arca CinemaGiovani Award there, and also won Best Cinematography at the Seville European Film Festival. And it gets a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nicolas Rapold of the New York Times wrote “ Gianfranco Rosi’s latest, beautifully shot documentary movingly… borderless tableaus bring out another kind of truth in faces, places and pure feeling.” I’m watching. Hulu has also added Jann, a 2019 comedy series from Canada. Jann Arden plays a somewhat fictionalized version of herself, here, a singer/songwriter having to deal with tough realities like ageism leading to a dying career, the end of a romance, and her mom’s dementia, all with hilarious results. Zoie Palmer stars as her sister, Max, Deborah Grover as Nora, her mom, and Sharon Taylor, Patrick Gilmore, Elena Juatco and Jason Blicker also star, and this series is bought to us by one of the creators of Schitt’s Creek(!), Andrew Barnsley. It was also nominated for several awards at the Canadian Screen Awards, and Arden and Harper won the Writers Guild of Canada prize for TV comedy. And there ae two seasons now available on Hulu, with 14 episodes in all to revel in. Glenn Sumi of Now Toronto called it “is a biting entertainment industry satire… with savage wit.” And it gets a 6.7/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely tuning in. Unfortunately, Hulu has also added the drab The Tax Collector, the 2020 action movie. This followers two mob enforcers, David(Bobby Soto) and Creeper(Shia LeBeouf) or “tax collectors,” as they collect a cut of local gangsters earnings for their boss, The Wizard(Jimmy Smits). And during a day filled with violence, they try to save a friend from the gang violence that endangers the community. Cinthya Carmona, George Lopez(!), Jay Reeves, Lana Parrilla, Chelsea Rendon and Gabriela Flores also star, while David Ayer(Fast and Furious) directed. But this is a stinker of a movie that splurges in dated stereotypes. Carlos Aguilar of the Los Angeles Times calls it “one of the most atrocious viewing experiences of the year, The Tax Collector relies on a trite visual language built on obvious flashbacks and bland imagery that match the unimaginatively dreadful writing where every Latino in sight is a gangster.” And it gets a horrible 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t bother. And, finally, to our delight, Hulu has added more seasons of The Puppy Bowl! Yes, they have added Season 14 and 15 of this classic and delightful series to their line-up, so we can watch before the Super Bowl next Sunday. So we get not only the Puppy Bowl XIV, but also The Pre-Game Show, The Dog Show(featuring rescue dogs), and Cute as Fluff. The only downside is that we don’t get the Kitten Half-Time Show here, but I suppose we can wait until Sunday for that. And the Puppy Bowl gets an amazing 8.6/10 on IMDb. We could all use some cute right now. I’m watching.
The most exciting add on Netflix this week has to be The Dig, a 2021 British drama. This is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston and reimagines the discovery of the iconic Sutton Hoo dig in Suffolk, England, in 1939. It has landowner (and thwarted archaeologist)Edith Petty, played by Carey Mulligan, hiring archaeologist Basil Brown, played by Ralph Fiennes, to unearth large, ancient burial mounds on her property, neither realizing at first what momentous finds are under their feet. As the world comes to realize, WWII looms and endangers the historic cemetery and its relics in ways previously unimagined. Lily James stars as the epic archaeologist Peggy Piggott, Archie Barnes as Edith‘s son Robert, and Johnny Flynn, Ben Chaplin, Ken Stott and Monica Dolan also star, with Simon Stone directing. This was an incredibly important find, informing the world that ancient Britons were not the ignorant brutes of the ‘Dark Ages‘ they were previously believed to be, and this movie communicates that well. It gets an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.3/10 on IMDb. Christy Lemire of NPR and FilmWeek says “[it’s] performances are really strong… There’s a quiet and steady pacing here that allows the actors to reveal their characters quite organically.” Watch before the Academy Awards, there may be some nominations here. I’m tuning in. Netflix has also added Below Zero, a 2021 Spanish thriller. Here, a prison transport bus is attacked, driven by Martín(Javier Gutiérrez), along with his partner Montesinos(Isak Férriz) while they’re traverse an icy, frigid landscape. But when Montesinos gets out to investigate and never returns, it’s up to Martín to handle an ever more dangerous situation, with one of the prisoners, Ramis(Luis Callejo), already escaped, and more to follow. Karra Elejalde, Andrés Gertrúdix, Patrick Criado, Miquel Gelabert and Àlex Monner also star, while Lluís Quílez directs. And it gets a 6.3/10 on IMDb, with Johnny Loftus of The Decider writing it “builds a strong sense of foreboding from the beginning.” But that’s too tense for me. Better to watch Penguin Bloom, a 2021 drama. This is based on a true story about Samantha Bloom, played by Naomi Watts, who fell off a roof in Thailand, while on vacation, and became paralyzed from the waist down, sinking into depression. A year later, her children bring home a magpie chick they call Penguin, and she nurses it back to health, thereby healing herself as well. Andrew Lincoln, Griffin Murray-Johnston, Felix Cameron, Rachel House and Jacki Weaver(!) also star, and Glendyn Ivin directed. And Naomi Watts also produced this film, as well as starring in it. And yes, it’s a bit corny, but it’s sweet and uplifting, too. It gets a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Clarisse Loughrey of the Independent (UK) saying “you can see the strings all being enthusiastically pulled by screenwriters Harry Cripps and Shaun Grant – but the film’s emotional manipulations work, even if they’re obvious.” It’s on my list. Netflix also offers 50M2, a Turkish thriller series. Here, Engin Öztürk plays Gölge or Shadow, as he’s known, a henchman in the mob who is mistaken for a tailor’s son and decides to take advantage of that misapprehension and hide out in the small neighborhood. Kürsat Alniaçik, Cengiz Bozkurt,Aybüke Pusat, Tolga Tekin and Özgür Emre Yildirim also star, and there are 8 episodes to binge on now. Ready Steady Cut calls it “an average, tasty, action drama with a little comedy for good measure.” I’m watching. And, finally, Netflix has added We Are: The Brooklyn Saints, a 2021 docu-series. This tells the story of a youth football program in East New York run by adult volunteers after the police-athletic league lost their funding. So these untrained volunteers like (unemployed) Coach Gawuala give the 7 to 13 year-old boys in the neighborhood positive messages about being their brother’s keeper and being stars of their own game, while they’re all buffeted by negative stereotypes of Black and Hispanic men being dangerous. Coach Vick is even arrested on a minor traffic charge, something unseen in better, whiter neighborhoods. There are 4 episodes here, all ably directed by Rudy Valdez. And this show gets an amazing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. James Poniewozik of the New York Times says “We Are: The Brooklyn Saints will tackle your heart,” and we can all use that right now. I’m tuning in.
Unfortunately, Amazon‘s biggest add this week is Chick Fight, a 2020 dud of release. Malin Akerman stars here, as Anna Wyncomb, who in desperate need of a dollar after her business closes down and she is evicted, joins an all-female fight club in Florida, led by Bear (Fortune Feimster). she seeks help from alcoholic trainer Jack Murphy(Alec Baldwin), and is cheered on by her best friend Charleen(Dulce Sloan). Kevin Connolly, Alexia Barlier, Kevin Nash, Alec Mapa and Bella Thorne also star, and Joseph Downey directed, with Ackerman also serving as producer. But this is a stinker of a movie, so full of stereotypes it’s hard to get down. And it gets a deservedly low 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com saying “not only does Chick Fight trot out sexist character tropes, it also wallows in trite boxing-movie cliches.” I’m definitely not watching. Amazon has also added Mortal, a 2020 Norwegian fantasy thriller. Iben Akerlie plays Christine, a young psychologist who tries to help the mysterious Eric(Nat Wolff), a murder suspect who she finds can cause people and things to burn. A power not he can’t control, so when he escapes is chased across the country, everyone is in danger. Priyanka Bose, Per Frisch, Ravdeep Singh Bajwa, Per Egil Aske, Arthur Hakalahti and Oddrun Valestrand also star, with André Øvredal(Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) directing. And it gets a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com calls it “yet another dreary entry in the overly serious superhero genre, where brooding and brown cinematography add a false veneer of importance to the proceedings.” Not worth the trouble. And, finally, Amazon has added a new premium series to watch before the end of February(I presume), 19-2, a 2014 Canadian crime drama from Acorn tv. This takes place in Montreal, where Nick Barron(Adrian Holmes) returns to Station 19, after surviving a shooting that killed his partner, and finds his new partner, Ben Chartier(Jared Keeso), who strikes him as overzealous. Benz Antoine, Maxim Roy,Laurence Leboeuf, Mylène Dinh-Robic and Sarah Allen also star, and there are 10 episodes to enjoy before the end of the month. This series has been nominated for 37 Canadian Screen Awards, winning 5, and gets an amazing 8.2/10 on IMDb. Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times called it ” a slow burn… in the tradition of shows like The Wire, portraying law enforcement less flashily and less noisily than others, and thus more accurately. ” I’m watching.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!