Yes, it’s the holiday 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 good adds this week, so let’s get started!
Hulu has some exciting adds this week, like Summer of Soul(….or When the Revolution Could Not be Televised), the 2021 award-winning doc. This tells the story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, held at held at Mount Morris Park in Harlem which features stellar performers like Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson(!), Nina Simone(!), The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight and the Pips, B.B. King(!) and Sly and the Family Stone, and yet was not covered in the press nationally, nor ballyhooed like its more famous cousins Woodstock or the Monterey Jazz Festival. One might suspect it had to do with the color of the performers skin, and that’s covered, but we also get to view some of the greatest performances of that decade. This is all masterfully presented to us by director Ahmir-Khalib “Questlove” Thompson, and the result is the movie that was the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and went on to win two awards there, both the audience and the grand jury prize in the U.S. documentary section. And it gets an amazing 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.9/10 on IMDb. Jack Hamilton of Slate wrote “one of the best things about Summer of Soul is its reminder that the joy of musical community is one of the great human experiences, a unifying truth in more ways than one.” It’s aware, and so much fun. I’m watching. Hulu also has A Ciambra, a 2017 Italian drama. This follows the life of 14 year-old Pio(Pio Amato) a Roma boy, bent on following in the footsteps of his now seriously criminal older brother, Cosimo (Damiano Amato), especially after his brother and father are arrested. So he befriends some North African immigrants, outsiders like himself in Campagna, and finds a friend in Ayiva(Koudous Seihon). Iolanda Amato, Patrizia Amato, Susanna Amato, Rocco Amato and Pasquale Alampi also star, and Jonas Carpignano directs this sequel to his Mediterrnea, the original that introduced us to Pio and his family. And Martin Scorsese is executive producer on this film that went on to win multiple awards in 2017, including the Label Europa Cinemas at Cannes, the Georges Delerue Prize at the Ghent International Film Festival and Cinema Extraordinaire at the Bergen International Film Festival. And it gets an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Kevin Maher of the Times(UK) saying “the wildly impressive amateur cast and novice Italian-American director Jonas Carpignano…have done their jobs and created an impossibly gripping fiction.” It’s on my list. Also new on Hulu is Shelley, a 2016 Danish horror movie. Ellen Dorrit Petersen stars as Louise, a frail woman living off the grid, even eschewing electricity, with her husband Kasper (Peter Christoffersen), who finally convinces her maid and nurse Elena(Cosmina Strattan) to be their surrogate for them. But Elena becomes convinced the child she carrying is evil, and slowly becomes irrational. And then the baby arrives. Björn Andrésen, Marlon Kindberg Bach, Kenneth M Christensen and Patricia Schumann also star, and Ali Abbasi(Border) directed. And this film was nominated for numerous awards in 2017, and won for Best Song at the Danish Film Awards. And it gets a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Noel Murray of the L. A. Times wrote “it’s no Rosemary’s Baby – or even It’s Alive– but the Danish supernatural thriller Shelley is a fair addition to the “natal horror” genre.” And its been compared to David Cronenberg, so of course, I’m not watching. Much too scary for me. And finally, Hulu offers The Cured, the 2017 horror movie. This takes place in a post-zombie apocalypse Ireland, trying to reintegrate the now ‘cured’ zombies into society, and so American journalist Abbie (Ellen Page) makes the decision to vouch for her brother-in-law Senan (Sam Keeley), and even accept him in her home, with her son, Cillian(Oscar Nolan). But Senan is beset by nightmares of what he did, and feelings of violence threatening to erupt. Worse, there’s an anti-‘cured’ group, led by Conor(Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), trying to reignite the terror, especially when the government plans to euthanize those zombies not deemed ‘cured.’ Stuart Graham, Paula Malcomson, Peter Campion, Lesley Conroy and Natalia Kostrzewa also star, while David Freyne directed. And though it gets only a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, this was a real hit with horror fans. And I love Ellen(Elliot) Page. Kim Newman of Empire Magazine said “suspenseful and thought-provoking, The Cured is a serious, engaged horror movie. More upsetting than scary, it ratchets up the tension unsettlingly. There’s life in zombies yet.” And I know you need horror.
The selection are peculiarly slim on Netflix this week, but there are a few interesting new adds, like Fear Street Part One: 1994, a 2021 teen horror film. Based on a series by R. L. Stine, this takes place after a murderous spree in Shadyside, Ohio, called the murder capital of the US, while Sunnyvale, a neighboring town, enjoys being one of the safest towns, as well as the richest. All this is said to be due to the curse of the Fier witch, so when Deena Johnson(Kiana Madeira), a non-believer, starts noticing unusual happenings, and her best friend Sam(Olivia Scott Welch) actually sees the Fier witch, things are definitely weird. And when they start to be hunted by the undead killers of Shadyside, they know they’re in trouble. Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman and Gillian Jacobs also star, while the director is Leigh Janiak. And while this film gets an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is seriously gory stuff. Alison Willmore of Vulture writes “a nasty, effective slasher…,” so it’s definitely not for the younger set. I’d rather watch Bureau of Magical Things, a Australian fantasy/comedy series. This takes place in a world where magic and human existed side by side, until technology threw things outof whack, and now fairies, elves and the like are endangered, so when Kyra(Kimie Tsukakoshi), a tri-ling(half human, half fairy) discovers a threat to the world, she tries to unite both worlds to fight back. Elizabeth Cullen, Christopher Sommers, Mia Milnes, Julian Cullen and Jamie Carter also star, and there are 10 episodes now available for viewing. And this series gets a 6.7/10 on IMDb, and Josh Sorokach of the Decider says “Magic For Humans is a fun, entertaining series that’ll make your bad day disappear.” I’m watching. Netflix also offers Ophelia, the 2018 drama starring Daisy Ridley. Here, Ridley stars as Shakespeare‘s Ophelia, but in a reimagined story , based on the novel by Lisa Klein, that gives Ophelia a chance to tell her side of the events at Elsinore Castle. George MacKay plays Prince Hamlet, Clive Owens, the villainous uncle Claudius, and Naomi Watts plays Queen Gertrude. Dominic Mafham, Nathaniel Parker, Tom Felton and Devon Terrell also star, and Claire McCarthy(The Waiting City) directed. And though this movie gets a rather tepid 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, Ridley’s performance in it has been widely acclaimed. Larushka Ivan-Zadeh of Metro Newspaper (UK) wrote “richly coloured and interestingly flawed, director Claire McCarthy’s melodrama is an increasingly bonkers watch, anchored by [Daisy] Ridley‘s magnetic turn as the passionately conflicted Ophelia.” I’m tuning in. Also new on Netflix is Somos, a 2021 Mexican crime drama. Based on Ginger Thompson’s 2017 history How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico, Somos(We Are) tells the story of the 2011 massacre in Allende, in the Mexican state of Coahuila, carried out by the deadly Zetas cartel. Unfortunately, the U.S. DEA shared inside information with their Mexican counterparts, who promptly tipped off the Zetas cartel, leading to the massacre. This series dramatizes that tale, with Kerry Ardra, Everardo Arzate, Iliana Donatlán and Arelí González starring. Jimena Pagaza, Jesús Sida, Natalia Martínez, Salvador Montenegro and Mercedes Hernández also star as some of the villagers caught in the crossfire. And there are 6 episodes now available on Netflix, with the series getting an impressive 7.1/10 on IMDb. Jack Seale of the Guardian calls it “the show that flips the script on brutal cartel crime epics,” and that’s why I’m watching. And, finally, Netflix has added Red Joan, the 2018 spy drama. Dame Judy Dench(!) stars here as Joan Stanley, living in a quiet suburb of London until her arrest on charges of treason. And, through her interrogation, Stanley tells of her younger self, played by Sophie Cookson, a physics student in 1938 at Cambridge, who came to be friends with communists(!). Stephen Campbell Moore, Tom Hughes, Tereza Srbova, Ben Miles and Nina Sosanya also star, while Trevor Nunn directed. Based on the real-life case of Southeast London’s Melita Norwood, this movie is wonderfully complex, not giving in to the simplistic reasoning( and bias) of most spy movies. and it gets a 6.4/10 on IMDb. Tomris Laffley of RogerEbert.com wrote “uneven it may be, Red Joan still emanates a memorable essence, one that’s refreshingly and believably feminine.” I’m definitely tuning in.
Amazon‘s blockbuster add this week is The Tomorrow War, it’s 2021 sci-fi thriller. Chris Pratt stars as biology teacher and former Green Beret, Dan Forester, who can’t get a job, but suddenly finds himself called back into action when time travelers from the year 2051, asking for military help in a world beset by alien attackers called the Whitespikes. J. K Simmons(!) plays Dan‘s anti-government extremist father, James, Betty Gilpin as Dan‘s wife, Emmy and Yvonne Strahovski, Sam Richardson and Edwin Hodge star as some of Dan‘s fellow draftees, and Chris McKay(Robot Chicken) directs. But this is pretty disappointing fare if you like good sci-fi, more like G.I. Joe versus the aliens. It gets only a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. Angie Han of Mashable says “it’s not that sci-fi action movies need to seem realistic. But The Tomorrow War’s view of human nature feels so jarringly out of touch, it’s easy to get stuck in disbelief and hard to take anything else that happens all that seriously.” I agree. Luckily, Amazon has also added new series to be available only for the month of July like Season 1 of The Art of Crime, a 2017 French mystery series from the MHZ channel. Florence Chassagne stars, here, as Eléonore Bernheim, an art historian at the Louvre, called in to work the fictional OCBC, a division of French police investigating cultural patrimony, or stealing. She is forced to work with Captain Antoine Verlay (Nicolas Gob), a crack detective, totally ignorant about art with definite anger management issues. But they manage to solve some of the most cryptic at mysteries in France. Benjamin Egner, Philippe Duclos, Farida Rahouadj, Emmanuel Noblet and Dounia Coesens also star, and there are 6 episodes available to view for free through July 31. This series won the Prix du Public de la Meilleure Serie at the Luchon International Film Festival in 2021, and gets an impressive 7/10 on IMDb. I’m definitely tuning in. And, finally, Amazon has added the classic Rear Window, Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece. Jimmy Stewart stars as photographer Jeff Jefferies, bound to a wheelchair after breaking his legs on assignment, and restricted to his Greenwich Village apartment during a heat wave, with nothing but spying on his neighbors with binoculars to occupy his time. But when he hears a woman’s cry from an apartment, and no longer see the bedridden neighbor, but her suspicious and foreboding husband, played by Raymond Burr, leaving the house at all hours of the night, he can get no one to believe his dark suspicions. No one but his high-society girlfriend Lisa Fremont(Grace Kelly) and his nurse, Stella(Thelma Ritter!). Wendell Corey, Judith Evelyn, Georgine Darcy, Ross Bagdasarian and Sara Berner also star, and this is based on the Cornell Woolrich 1942 short story It Had to Be Murder. No wonder it won numerous awards and was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, and was ranked 42 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 movies list. And it gets a stunning 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 8.5/10 on IMDb. Eleanor Ringel Cater of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says “this is Alfred Hitchcock at his best — a hugely entertaining, romantic and witty film with just a touch of mayhem.” I can’t wait to watch again, it’s perfect for summer nights.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!