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 great adds this week, so let’s get started!
The most exciting add on Hulu, and maybe online, this week is is Moffie, the 2021 Australian military drama. This takes place in 1981 South Africa, during the racist apartheid regime, when all young men over the age of 16 had to serve that government, and fight on the Angolan border, which is a hard enough situation, made even harder for Private Nicholas van der Swart, played by Kai Luke Brümmer, by the fact that he’s gay or moffie, the derogatory slur used in South Africa for gay people. Ryan de Villiers plays Dylan Stassen, a man he serves with and becomes romantically interested in, an interest that may endanger their lives. Matthew Vey, Stefan Vermaak, Hilton Pelser, Wynand Ferreira and Hendrick Nieuwoudt also star, while Oliver Hermanus. directed here, as well as co-writing the script, adapted from a 2006 novel of the same name by André Carl van der Merwe. Moffie premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, where it was nominated for two awards, and went on to win the Mermaid Award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, and the Jury Prize at the Dublin Film Festival. And it gets a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News called it ” a gentle beauty of a film with impressive work from a young cast.” But it’s brutality can be grueling, so beware. But Hulu also offers Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, the 2021 comedy. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star as Barb and Star, respectively, two middle-aged women from the Midwest who decide to travel to Vista Del Mar, Florida, after they lose their jobs at a local furniture company. But the movie gets crazy, with fantastical dance sequences and absurdist comedy. Jamie Dornan stars as Edgar, and there are tons of cameos by comedy stars and actors like Damon Wayans Jr., Fortune Feimster, Wendi McClendon-Covey, Vanessa Bayer, Kwame Patterson and even Phyllis Smith(The Office), and Josh Greenbaum(The Short Game) directs. But this is a bit of an uneven movie, feeling more like a bunch of sketches(some funny) thrown together. And it gets a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Allyson Johnson of the Boston Globe wrote “in its efforts to be dizzying, delightful, escapist fun, Barb and Star gets lost in its own self-indulgence.” I’m skipping it. Hulu has also added Papillon, the 2017 remake. This story of Henri “Papillon” Charrière, a Parisian safecracker wrongly sent to Devil’s Island in 1931, for a murder he didn’t commit, stars Charlie Hunnam(Children of Men), and Rami Malek(!) starring as Louis Degas, Papillon‘s loyal sidekick. This version covers Papillon’s early life in Paris, with his girlfriend and fellow safecracker Nennete (Eve Hewson) featured. Roland Møller, Nina Senicar, Tommy Flanagan and Christopher Fairbank also star, and Michael Noer(R) directed. But this movie doesn’t measure up to the 1973 classic, with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman(!). And it gets a mere 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. Hannah Strong of Little White Lies who wrote it “fails to do anything the original version didn’t.” I agree. I’m not watching. And, finally, Hulu has added The Donut King, a 2020 documentary. This tells the story of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy, who came with his family to the U.S. in 1975 as one of thousands of refugees, quickly fell in love with donuts, and by 1979 had 25 shops in Southern California. He went on to become a multimillionaire, sponsored over a hundred other refugees, and was a big donor for the Republican Party. But there’s tragedy here, too, as director Alice Gu shows us, when Ngoy lost everything to a gambling addiction. And this intriguing movie gets an amazing 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Claudia Puig of Filmweek said “not only is it a fascinating portrait of this particular Cambodian refugee, Ted Ngoy, but it also is about the culture of doughnut shops in L.A., which are so iconic.” I’m tuning in.
Well, Netflix might lead you to believe their best add this week is Fear Street Part 2: 1978, the second in their Fear Street 3-part ,movie series. This episode has us return to the accursed town of Shadyside, Ohio, but travels back to 1978 with Constance or Ziggy(Gillian Jacobs), whom we met in episode 1, a survivor of a slasher attack on Camp Nightwing in 1978. So here she tells her tale of that summer, with Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink playing Cindy and the younger Ziggy, respectively, attending the doomed camp. And there’s plenty of hijinks, sex and 80‘s music, like Blue Oyster Cult and the Captain and Tenille. McCabe Sly, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Brooks, Chiara Aurelia, Drew Scheid and Olivia Welch also star, while Leigh Janiak directs. And, though it gets a respectable 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is again, exceptionally violent and brutal. Josh Slater-Williams of Little White Lies writes “if 1994‘s escalating events seemed more like a string of bad luck, 1978′s feel like people genuinely at the mercy of cruel, coordinated fate thanks to sins of the past.” So if you like Friday the 13th, do tune in. But I’d rather watch The Cook of Castamar, a 2021 Spanish historical drama. Based on the novel of the same name by Fernando J. Muñez, this features Michelle Jenner as Clara Belmonte, a young woman beset by anxiety and agoraphobia since the death of her father, who then takes refuge in the kitchen and works as a chef. She begins work for the widowed Duke of Castamar, bereaved but destined for a new, advantageous marriage, courtesy of his mother, Doña Mercedes (Fiorella Faltoyano).Mónica López, Xenia Tostado, Jean Cruz, Jaime Zatarain and María Hervás also star, and there are 10 episodes available to enjoy now. And, yes, it’s a bit of a potboiler, but it’s well done, with complex characters. And it was nominated for 4 Iris Awards in Spain in 2021. And it gets a 6.9/10 on IMDb. ReadySteadyCut calls it “a sweeping period piece worth the investment,” and I’m watching. Netflix also offers Cat People, a 2021 docuseries. This brings you the stories of six different people from different parts of the world, who love cats, and show their love for the delightful animals in different ways. There’s Moshow (aka Dwayne Molock), now here in Portland, the Cat Rapper, who has 6 cats, credits them with saving his life, and now features them in his videos, with rap and song, on Youtube and Facebook. There’s also a couple who started a cat sanctuary on the Greek island of Syros, for the many stray cats there, in desperate need, and even a woman who runs a cat circus, using humane, if frustrating, methods. And this series was created by Glen Zipper, of Dogs(also on Netflix) fame. And it gets a 6.9/10 on IMDb, with ReadySteadyCut calling it “your purr-fect watch this year.” I’m definitely watching. But Netflix also has How to Become a Tyrant, a 2021 docuseries. Narrated by Peter Dinklage, this 6-part series that gives us the basic necessities for any up and coming tyrant, like Idi Amin, Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin(yes, no newer examples here). There is the episode on how to seize power, featuring methods like vilifying your enemies(or even worse, using examples like Hitler, Mussolini and Amin. Some of the episodes include Control the Truth(sound familiar?), Create a New Society and Crush Your Rivals. But the information here is never quite deep enough, or new enough either. None of the leaders covered date to within the last decade or two and many are from WWII. And no mention of Trump or Putin. Still, it does get an impressive 7.6/10 on IMDb. So if you want a refresher on many of the historic villains of the 20th century, this show is for you. And, finally, Netflix offers How I Became a Super Hero, a French action movie. Here, Pio Marmaï and Vimala Pons star as two police detectives assigned to the case when Paris is overrun by nasty supervillains, so they enlist the help of two ex-superheroes, and find average citizens are taking a dangerous drug that gives regular humans superpowers. Leïla Bekhti, Swann Arlaud, Benoit Poelvoorde, Clovis Cornillac and Carl Ernouf also star, and Douglas Attal directs. And this isn’t your average superhero movie, but one with plenty of nuanced characters, and snark, too. And it gets a 5.9/10 on IMDb, but it’s some fun. I’m watching.
The biggest new title on Amazon Prime is Our Friend, a 2021 comedy. Dakota Johnson plays Nicole, and Casey Affleck plays Matt, a couple whose lives are turned upside down, when Nicole is diagnosed with terminal cancer, especially crushing because they have two young daughters. So when Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel), a lifelong friend, offers to come and help out, he becomes integral to the family’s survival. Isabella Kai Rice, Violet McGraw, John McConnell, Gwendoline Christie and Cherry Jones(!) also star, while Gabriela Cowperthwaite(Blackfish!) directs. And this is based on a true story of journalist Matt Teague. And it gets a 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.3/10(!) on IMDb. David Fear of Rolling Stone says “its strength really lies in its ability to recognize grief, in all of its raggedness and messiness, and not shy away from it.” And it’s not corny. I’m watching. Amazon has also added Season 1 of An Ordinary Woman, a Russian drama series on the Topic channel, to view during the month of July. This tells the story of Marina Lavrova (Anna Mikhalkova), living a seemingly ordinary life with her husband and children in Moscow, but she actually runs an escort service under the cover of being a florist. But when one of her ‘girls’ is murdered, and Marina tries to cover it up, while the police try to figure out who the murderer is, without her help. Evgeniy Grishkovets, Aglaya Tarasova, Elizaveta Kononova, Arina Rusu and Darya Saveleva also star, and there are 9 episodes to binge on now. And this series gets an incredible 7.4/10 on IMDb. SBS calls it “an extraordinary blend of Breaking Bad and Happy Valley,” and I’m definitely tuning in. And, finally, Amazon also offers Season 1 of Follow the Money, another Topic series(Danish) to watch before August 1.Thomas Bo Larsen stars as a police detective, Mads, looking for connections to a dead body that may lead to a rich CEO of a green energy company, Alexander(Nikolaj Lie Kaas). Claudia Moreno, Natalie Madueño, Line Kruse, Esben Smed and Thomas Hwan also star, and there are 10 episodes to enjoy now, but be sure to finish before August 1. Especially since it’s been a winner at the Danish Film Awards since 2017, and the creator of this show is Jeppe Gjervig Gram, cowriter of Borgen. And it gets an outstanding 7.6/10 on IMDb. ForeignCrimeDrama calls it “the series you’re craving.” And I love a mystery.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!