Yes, it’s that time again, the weekend, 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 exciting new adds this week, so let’s get started!
Hulu’s biggest add this week is Spontaneous, the 2021 black teen comedy. This has Mara(Katherine Langford) enduring her last year in high school, with best friend Tess(Hayley Law) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer), when the student sitting next to her explodes in class. Which is upsetting, but it becomes disturbing when more students start to explode, and the kids are isolated and studied until the lethal problem can be solved. Piper Perabo and Rob Huebel star as her parents, and Yvonne Orji, Kaitlyn Bernard, Laine MacNeil and Bzhaun Rhoden also star, with Brian Duffield adapting the script and directing. The movie itself is based on the novel of the same name by Aaron Starmer. And it gets an amazing 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News calling it “an absurdly funny, gripping and moving film that boasts one of the best screenplays of the year.” I’m watching. Hulu also has The State of Texas vs. Melissa, a 2020 documentary from director Sabrina Van Tassel. Here, Van Tassel tells the story of Melissa Lucio, mother of 14 children, who has now spent 11 years on death row, for the murder of her three year old child, one she says she did not commit. And there’s reason to believe her, from the tale of the child’s fall down a large flight of stairs that her other children attest to on film, that was never shown in court, to a supposedly crooked DA, who was running for reelection at the time of her conviction, that required a big win. Oh, and a defense attorney who seemed to have talked her into taking a “deal,” despite a coerced confession from a bullying officer. This film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020 and won Best Documentary at the Raindance Film Festival in 2021. It’s a disturbing but important movie, that gets an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stephanie Archer of Film Inquiry wrote “The State of Texas vs. Melissa unfolds slowly, meticulously, and with intent. Every question you find arising will be answered – but in time.” I’m definitely tuning in. But Hulu also offers Fly Like a Girl, the 2019 doc. This tells the stories of different girls and women who insist that flying is their destiny, and that women can prevail, and even thrive, in what has traditionally been a man’s world. Hear the tale of different women’s fight to get the opportunities that fall automatically to men, from U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who served as an army helicopter pilot to U.S. national aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff, and of the battle women still face to get equal treatment for employment in this country. Director Kate Wiatt even has a 90 year-old veteran of WWII’s Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) flying unit. And don’t miss the numerous young girls featured, who know that females can do any job as well as males, including aviation. It won Best Feature Documentary at the Hot Springs International Women’s Film Festival and DOXX Spotlight at the Tallgrass International Film Festival in 2019. And it gets an incredible 8.1/10 on IMDb. Wendy Shreve of Featuring Film said “The pilots’ enthusiasm will capture young audiences; the women’s determination, grittiness will impress all ages.” I won’t miss it. And, finally, Hulu has Zappa, a 2020 doc. This gives us a multilayered look at the very complex rock legend Frank Zappa, over the arc of his life, from his teen years in California, admiring blues legends like Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Elmore James, to his first band, the Blackouts, which got in trouble for, of all things, being mixed race. And, of course, of his iconoclastic band Mother of Invention, and his constant writing, attempting to please his audience, while antagonizing them as well. And director Alex Winter(The Panama Papers) managed to do this so well by gaining unlimited access to Zappa family trust and all archival footage. It all adds up to very entertaining, but also illuminating, material for every music fan, not just Zappa nuts. And it gets a 96%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes, with Paul Byrnes of the Sydney Morning Herald writing “if there is one American musician who was overdue for a comprehensive documentary, that’s Zappa — and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s as messy as his music in parts, but that fits.” It’s on my list.
Okay, so Netflix doesn’t have many big name adds this week, there are still some hidden gems to be found, like Why Are You Like This, the 2018 Australian comedy series. This has best friends Mia(Olivia Junkeer), Penny(Naomi Higgins), and Austin(Wil King), all twenty-somethings, trying to navigate Melbourne, oblivious to their tendency to offend people with their high ethical standards, all the while failing to live up to them in their own lives. Mia struggles to find a job she really doesn’t want, Penny accuses a gay man of being of homophobia, and Austin exacts vengeance on ex-lovers. Lawrence Leung, Shabana Azeez, Roz Hammond, Lara Robinson and Henry Torres also star, and there are 6 episodes available to binge on now. And it gets a 6.4/10 on IMDb, with Ready Steady Cut calling it “an addictive, early adulthood comedy about the expectations and pitfalls of life.” And it’s hilarious. I’m tuning in. Netflix also offers Law School, a 2021 South Korean crime drama. This begins at the Hankuk University Law School, with students attending a intense mock trial, with Professor Yeo(Ahn Nae-sang) taking a break, only to be found dead(poison!) minutes later. But is it suicide(there was a suicide note in his pocket) or murder? Professor Yang Joon-hoon (Kim Myung-min) thinks it’s murder, but he has a history with the deceased , whom he tried (and failed) for bribery. He and his students try to find the truth, while dealing with other mysteries as well. Ryu Hye-young, Lee Jung-eun, Jo Jae-ryong, Hyun Woo and Lee David also star, and there are 2 episodes available now, with a new one added every Wednesday. And this intriguing series(compared to Law and Order, by some) gets a 7.9/10 on IMDb. The Review Geek calls it “it’s an intriguing mystery,” and you know I love a mystery. I’m watching. Also new on Netflix is Dark City Beneath the Beat, an exciting 2021 doc from director and music supervisor Mighty Mark. Here, we’re given an cinema vérité look at the hip-hop and house club scene guided by Baltimore by TT The Artist, a Baltimore rapper and club queen, who gives us an intimate look at how the Baltimore rap scene keeps going, even with the dwindling space available. And different local talking heads tell us of a city that may down, but is definitely not out, and we catch electric scenes of dancing and music at the venues in the area. And cinematographer Kirby Griffin gives the viewer an exhilarating view of the dance and rapping, in the clubs and in the streets. If you’ve been missing the club scene during Covid, this is the movie for you, brought to us by producer Issa Rae(!). It gets a stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was a selection for the SXSW Festival and vied for the Grand Jury Prize at the American Black Film Festival. David Ehrlich of Indiewire wrote “in 1927, filmmaker Walter Ruttman rendered Berlin as a cinematic symphony; in 2020, TT the Artist uses her camera to remix Baltimore into a 65-minute banger,” and Stephen A Russell of Time Out said its “a gloriously frenetic way to whip up your weekend.” Count me in. Netflix also has My Love: Six Stories of True Love, a 2021 limited documentary series. Here, each of the 6 episodes tells of a different couple in love, ranging from countries like the US and Japan to Brazil and India, and couples like American farmers Ginger and David to Kinuko and Haruhei, living in a care facility for Haruhei’s leprosy treatment, where they first met. And each episode shows us daily life with the couple, usually living with old age looming, but not crushing anyone beneath it’s feet. Each episode covers approximately one year in the couple’s life, as eloquently told by a different director each time. And this incredible series gets a stunning 8.4/10 on IMDb. Monique Jones of Just Add Color wrote “this gentle, hopeful docuseries proves enduring true love exists…” It’s on my list. And, finally, Netflix has added The Soul, a 2021 Taiwanese sci-fi mystery. This takes place in a dark and ominous 2032 Taiwan, where an dying and abusive man involved in the occult, Mr. Wang (Samuel K), is murdered, his wife Li Yan(Sun Anke) is a suspect, but a prosecutor suffering from cancer himself, Liang Wen-Chao (Chang Chen) is not sure it is so simple. His wife and co-worker, A-Bao (Ning Chang) finds far more evidence than meets the eye, and of course, that puts both of them in danger. Christopher Ming–Shun Lee, Zhang Baijia, Lin Hui Min, Samuel Ku and Hsueh-Feng Lu also star, while Wei-hao Cheng directs. And this movie gets a 6.8/10 on IMDb, with John Serba of the Decider saying “it’s the work of a filmmaker with vision.” I’m watching.
Amazon, too, has some good adds this week, like Spontaneous, (see above for review). But Amazon also has Frances Ferguson, a 2019 dark comedy. This tells the story of substitute teacher Frances Ferguson, played by Kaley Wheless, who is so bored and frustrated with her job and existence in Nebraska that she has an affair with a student, leading to calamitous outcomes, to which she is mostly clueless. Jake French plays the student, Keith Poulson her equally bored husband, and David Krumholtz plays her prison counselor, with Martin Starr, Jennifer Prediger and Bill Wise also starring, and Bob Byington (Somebody Up There Likes Me and Seven Chinese Brothers) directed. But the aspect that makes this movie is Nick Offerman’s dry narrative. And it gets a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it won Best Narrative Feature at the Sidewalk Film Festival. Robert Daniels of 812filmreviews wrote “with Frances Ferguson, Byington has crafted a funny dark comedy that’s at once playful and sardonic, and a brilliant commentary on gender roles.” It’s on my list. Amazon has also added Frank of Ireland, the 2021 comedy. Brian Gleeson plays Frank, a total man-child, still living at home in his childhood bedroom, though he says he’s a musician, unable to drive and equally unable to cope as an adult. So his family and friends have an intervention for him, which, of course, doesn’t work. Domhnall Gleeson plays his equally incompetent best friend Doofus, Pom Boyd plays his disgusted mother Mary and Sarah Greene plays his ex-girlfriend Áine. Tom Vaughan Lawlor, Liz Fitzgibbon and Rory Mullen also star, and siblings Brian and Domhnall Gleeson(yes, the sons of Brendan Gleeson) created and wrote the series. And there are 6 episodes to view now. I don’t find it terribly funny or different from anything currently on, and Variety calls it “uninspired,” but the series gets a 6.8/10 on IMDb, so someone must like it. You decide. And, finally, Amazon has added the 1st season of Keeping Faith, a Welsh mystery on Acorn tv. Eve Myles stars as Faith Howells, a solicitor who believes she’s happily married, until her husband and business partner Evan(Bradley Freegard) disappears while she’s on maternity leave, throwing her family into turmoil. But when she finds evidence of another identity for her husband, and perhaps a whole other life, with a 1 million pound life insurance policy, she begins to fear for the worst. Demi Letherby, Lacey Jones, Oscar & Harry Unsworth, Aneirin Hughes, Hannah Daniel and Betsan Llwyd also star, and there are 8 episodes to enjoy now. And it gets an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Euan Ferguson of the Observer(UK) writing “a toothsome plot, indeed: but what gives it its life force is Eve Myles, in surely a (deserved) breakout role to rival that of Suranne Jones in Doctor Foster.” But binge now, because this series disappears from the Amazon Prime air waves May 1, only to be seen on Acorn tv, for $5.99 a month. That’s two weeks, so get out the popcorn and step on it! I know I will.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!