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 interesting adds this week, so let’s get started!
Hulu doesn’t list many interesting new adds this week, but there are some hidden gems like Rūrangi, the 2021 New Zealand drama series. Elz Carrad(trans himself) plays Caz Davis, a young environmental activist who returns to his home town, Rūrangi, for the first time since his transition, trying to reconcile with his father, Gerald (Kirk Torrance). He shocks his village and unprepared friends like best friend Anahera(Awahina Rose Ashby), and his old boyfriend Jem (Arlo Green), but soon finds there’s an environmental battle to be fought there, as well. Ramon Te Wake, Renee Lyons, Aroha Rawson, Renée Sheridan and Sonny Tupu also star, while Max Currie directed. This movie won the Audience Award at the 2020 Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, and gets an stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Graeme Tuckett of stuff.co.nz said its a “film to celebrate and enjoy. It is also – and I’ve never written this in a review before – a film that will quite probably save a few lives.” I’m watching. Hulu also offers Stray, a 2020 Turkish documentary. This follows three stray dogs, Zeytin, Nazar and Kartal around Istanbul, which has a huge population of stray dogs thanks to it’s ‘no kill, no capture’ policy. The three dogs live separate lives, with very distinctive personalities, trying to survive, scrounging for food, and making human(and dog) friends. Elizabeth Lo directs for the first time this beautiful, quiet and insightful film that was nominated for multiple awards in 2020, and went on to win Best International Documentary at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. And it gets an amazing 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Bilge Ebiri of Spirituality & Health wrote “it’s meant to be an immersive experience, an effort to put us as viewers not just behind the eyes of a dog, but also in its mind. It succeeds beautifully.” I’m tuning in. Hulu also has The One I Love, a 2014 comedy/thriller. Elizabeth Moss and Mark DuPlass star here, as a married couple, Sophie and Ethan, on the brink of breaking up, who decide to take the advice of their marriage counselor, played by Ted Danson, and go for a weekend stay at a special guest house. But things quickly become surreal, that has nothing to do with the joint they smoke upon their arrival. The question is, can they even escape the house when the weekend is over? Kiana Cason, Kaitlyn Dodson and Marlee Matlin(!) also star, and Charlie McDowell directed. And this film gets an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.1/10 on IMDb. Candice Frederick of Reel Talk, Online said “screenwriter Justin Lader‘s feature film debut is nothing short of stunning and hopefully signals a prolific career ahead. Meanwhile, director Charlie McDowell‘s first feature effort similarly allows for such a unique exploration of the trials of romance.” I’s on my list. And, finally, Hulu has The Escape, a 2018 drama. Gemma Arterton stars as Tara, a woman seemingly trapped in an unhappy marriage, overworked and underappreciated by a self-absorbed husband Mark(Dominic Cooper). Family tell her its just a phase and dismiss it, so when she buys a one-way ticket to Paris, everyone is shocked. Frances Barber, Marthe Keller(!), Jalil Lespert and Laura Donoughue also star, with Dominic Savage directing. This screened in the Special Presentations section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and Arterton was nominated for Best Actress at both the British Independent Film Awards and the National Film Awards for her work here. And The Escape gets a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian wrote “a superlative performance from Gemma Arterton is at the centre of this almost unbearably painful and sad film from writer-director Dominic Savage.” I’m tuning in.
The biggest title added on Netflix this week has to be The Last Letter From Your Lover, the 2021 romance. Based on the Jojo Moyes‘ 2012 novel of the same name, Felicity Jones stars as Ellie Haworth, a young journalist, and workaholic who comes upon some letters from 1965, between a married socialite, Jennifer Stirling(Shailene Woodley!), and an unknown suitor, and investigates. But in flashback, we learn Stirling didn’t have a perfect life, but lost her memory in a car accident, and had to delve into the letters herself, to learn of her own past. Callum Turner, Diana Kent, Ben Cross(!), Nabhaan Rizwan, Ncuti Gatwa and Joe Alwyn also star, while Augustine Frizzell directs. But this is your standard romance, with rather hackneyed characters. It gets a mere 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Nell Minow of RogerEbert.com says “[The love stories] are still not that interesting and the actors have little chemistry.” I’d rather watch Cousins, a 2021 New Zealand drama. Based on the 1992 novel by Patricia Grace, this tells the story of 3 young Maori girls, Mata(Te Raukura Gray), Missy(Keyahne Patrick Williams) and Makareta(Mihi Te Rauhi Daniels), all cousins, in 1940‘s and ’50’s New Zealand, separated during their youth, and their varied fates in the racist western world they must join as adults. But Mata‘s disappearance as a child drives the grown Makareta(Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne), who escaped an arranged marriage to become a lawyer, and Missy(Rachel House!) to search for their cousin and what happened to the in the interim years. Mata‘s loss of her whānau(extended family), as well as her inability to speak te reo(East Polynesian Maori language) haunts her existence and the grown women try to set things right. Ana Scotney, Miriama Smith, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Cohen Holloway, Cian Elyse White and Calvin Tuteao also star, while Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith direct. And this movie gets an incredible 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Devika Girish of the New York Times say “the film trembles with sound, color and feeling, deriving much of its power from an excellent ensemble cast.” I’m watching twice. Netflix also offers The Tambour of Retribution, a 2020 Saudi Arabian drama. Faisal Al Dokhei stars as Dayel, the son of a swordsman(executioner) in a poor neighborhood of Riyadh, who falls in love with Shama, played by Adwa Fahad, daughter of a Tagaga (tambourine player) and a wedding singer. The fact that Shama is working to free her cousin Soror(Shabib Alkhaleefa)with whom she is in love, from a death sentence herself, sends Dayel into a jealous rage that has tragic consequences. Rawya Ahmed, Ajeba Aldosary, Muhand Alsaleh, Nada Alshehry and Hashem Hawsawi also star, and Abdulaziz Alshlahei directed. And this film won the Arab Cinema’s Horizons Award and Best Actor for Faisal Al Dokhei at the Cairo International Film Festival in 2020 and get a 7.2/10(!) on IMDb. Central Recorder calls it “one of the most gripping and entertaining movies,” and I’m tuning in. Also new on Netflix is Okupas, a 2021 Argentinian crime drama mini-series. Here, in 2009, 4 young men take up squatting in a run down building in Buenos Aires, only to be charged by the police, while being pressured by various neighborhood gangs as well. Rodrigo De la Serna, Diego Alonso Gómez, Ariel Staltari, Franco Tirri, Ana Celentano, Augusto Brítez and Dante Mastropierro also star, and there are 11 episodes to available to binge on now. And you may want to, since it won the Best Director and Revelation Awards at the Premio Martín Fierro Awards. And it gets an outstanding 9.1/10 on IMDb! It’s on my list. And, finally, Netflix has Kingdom: Ashin Of The North, a Korean thriller movie. This is a special prequel episode of the Kingdom series, where Jun Ji-hyun stars as Ashin(briefly featured in Season 2 of Kingdom), a girl living in a border village between the Joseon and their enemies Jurchen peoples, despised by both groups, and eventually wiped out. So Ashin lives in the forest and dreams of revenge, as well as bringing her family back with the aid of a magical plant, the saengsacho. Kim Shi-a, Park Byung-eun, Bae Doo–na, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Hye-joon and Kim Seong-gyoo also star, and Seong-hun Kim directs. Oh, and did I mention there are zombies? And this gets a 7.2/10 on IMDb, with Kate Sánchez of Why Tho? A Geek Community writing it “is a breathtaking special episode…that showcases the ferocity of a new character and situates the creation of the undead within a larger history”. I’m watching.
The only big title added on Amazon this week, unfortunately, is Jolt, the 2021 action film starring Kate Beckinsale. Here, Beckinsale plays Lindy, a bouncer who, due to a rare neurological disorder, becomes homicidally angry, with her only treatment being a vest rigged to electronically shock her back to normality(???). But then, of course, the one man she’s grown to love, is murdered the next day, and so she goes on a violent rampage. Stanley Tucci(!), Jai Courtney, Bobby Cannavale, Laverne Cox and David Bradley also star, and Tanya Wexler directs. But this movie is so offensive in so many ways, the treatment of a mental problem in such a glib fashion, the inconsistent plot, but overwhelmingly, the stupidity of it, that not even great stars like Tucci can save it. Tomris Laffly of RogerEbert.com says its “an action-packed, sci-fi adjacent dark comedy that leaves a lot to be desired in its neon-soaked wake,” and it gets only a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t bother. Better to watch season 1 of Indian Summers, from PBS Masterpiece, but available on Amazon until August 1. Set during the twilight of the British Empire in India, this follows the rich white Brits losing their grip on power, like Cynthia Coffin(Julie Walters!), but also ethnic Indians that have to put up British occupation, like Afrin Dalal(Nikesh Patel). Patrick Malahide, Jemima West, Roshan Seth, Aysha Kala and Lillete Dubey also star, and there are 10 episodes to devour before the end of the month. And this series gets a 79% on rotten Tomatoes and a 7.3/10 on IMDb.. Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of Spirituality & Practice wrote its a “glimpse of the last gasp of the British Raj in India with its nationalistic pride and it toxic racism.” And, finally, because the pickings are slim on Amazon this week, you can watch all of the 1st season of Rubicon, from AMC+, with a free one-week trial subscription. This features the story of Will Travers(James Badge Dale), an analyst with a federal intelligence agency API in 1970’s New York, when he investigates the death of his mentor David Hadas (Peter Gerety), and finds a cabal of rich elites that are trying to manipulate world events. Miranda Richardson(!), Arliss Howard, Dallas Roberts, Lauren Hodges and Christopher Evan Welch also star, and there are 13 episodes to devour in your 7 day free trial. And the series gets a 7.9/10(!) on IMDb. David Bianculli of NPR said “each one is a little more frightening and mind-blowing.” I’m tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!