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 has very little of note added this week, except Breaking Fast, a 2020 romantic comedy. This tells the story of Mo, played by Haaz Sleiman, reeling from a break-up and trying hard to remain faithful for Ramadan in West Hollywood, fasting til sunset and no impure thoughts, when he meets a man, Kal (Michael Cassidy), a seemingly typical American. When they break fast together each night, Mo begins to warm to the idea of another romance. Patrick Sabongui, Amin El Gamal, Rula Gardenier, Aline Elasmar and Veronica Cartwright(!) also star, and Mike Mosallam directed. And this warm film gets an amazing 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com writing it’s “a sweet romantic comedy that shows how it’s possible to observe nearly every convention of the mainstream romantic comedy yet still deliver something that feels new.” I’m watching. Hulu also has Cardinal, the 2017-20 Canadian mystery series. Based on the novels of crime writer Giles Blunt, this series revolves around detective John Cardinal(Bill Campbell) who returns to Cardinal Bay, in Northern Ontario, after being removed from the homicide squad for an obsession about an unsolved murder, only to be reassigned when the body is found. Karine Vanasse stars as his new partner, Lise Delorme, who may be investigating Cardinal himself. Deborah Hay stars as his wife, Catherine, and Alanna Bale, Kristen Thomson, Glen Gould, and James Downing also star. There are 3 seasons now available on Hulu, with 18 episodes to enjoy in all. And it gets an incredible 7.7/10 on IMDb. John Doyle of the Globe and Mail said “make a point of seeing it. You’ll be stuck to it. Cardinal is a gripping, superbly made crime drama. At times breathtaking, it is so good it is landmark Canadian TV.” I’m tuning in. Hulu has added There is Every Breath You Take, the 2021 Casey Affleck thriller. Here, Affleck plays Philip, a psychotherapist who has a controversial new talk therapy technique of sharing his own tragedy(his son’s death), with depressed and suicidal patients, claiming it’s cured a patient, Daphne(Emily Alyn Lind). But when she commits suicide, her brother James(Sam Claflin) shows up, seemingly friendly at first, but, of course, set on vengeance. Michelle Monaghan, India Eisley, Veronica Ferres, Hiro Kanagawa and Lilly Krug also star, while Vaughn Stein directed. But this is totally predictable stuff, and gets only 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ed Potton of the Times(UK) says its “a deeply pedestrian psychological thriller that uses the hoary old cliché of a dead child as its emotional ballast.” Don’t bother. And, finally, Hulu has a classic thriller that will satisfy, The Conversation, the 1974 classic directed(and produced) by Francis Ford Coppola. Gene Hackman stars, here, as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert in San Francisco, secretly wracked by guilt for the violating the privacy of the people he records. So when he hears a conversation seemingly referring to a future murder, he is presented with the dilemma of getting involved, taboo in his profession, and a possible threat to his own well-being. Robert Duvall plays his shadowy client, Harrison Ford as Duvall‘s sinister assistant, and Cindy Williams(!), Frederic Forrest(!), John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Elizabeth MacRae and Teri Garr(!) also star, and Coppola said Michelangelo Antonioni’s thriller Blowup (1966) inspired this film. It premiered at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or(!), and went on to win numerous awards that year, including Best Director and Best Film at the National Board of Review. And it gets an astonishing 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Michael Sargow of the New Yorker wrote “thanks to Walter Murch‘s keen, intuitive sound montage and Hackman‘s clammy, subtle performance, the movie captures [an] elusive and universal fear-that of losing the power to respond, emotionally and morally, to the evidence of one’s own senses.” I’m definitely watching.
Netflix has some interesting adds this week, like Hit & Run, a 2021 Israeli action series. Lior Raz(Fauda) plays Segev Azulay, a happily married man whose wife Danielle Wexler Azulai(Kaelen Ohm), a dancer, is set to travel to New York City for a big audition when she is hit by an unknown driver in Tel Aviv, and dies on the scene. Segev grieves, but then begins to wonder if it was really an accident and sets off to investigate, with the help of an old girl friend, Naomi(Sanaa Lathan!). Gal Toren, Moran Rosenblatt, Gregg Henry, Igal Naor and Siena Kelly also star, and there are 9 episodes available to stream now. This series is produced by Fauda creators Avi Issacharoff and Raz himself, but even that doesn’t save this violent and unoriginal fare. So though it gets a very respectable 6.9/10 on IMDb, I won’t be tuning in. I agree with Dan Fienberg of the Hollywood Reporter who says “whatever momentum Hit & Run builds in the early episodes – and it builds a tremendous amount – basically dissipates due to increasingly dumb narrative developments.” I’d rather watch The Swarm, a 2020 French film. Suliane Brahim stars as Virginie, a single mom who lives a hardscrabble life with her teenage kids on her farm, where they raise locusts for a high-protein food source. Things go from bad to worse when the locusts aren’t producing well enough, until she accidentally discovers the insect’s fondness for blood, human blood, that is. Marie Narbonne, Sofian Khammes, Raphael Romand, Stéphan Castang and Renan Prévot also star, with Just Philippot directs. The Swarm was selected for Cannes 2020 Critics Week, and Brahim won Best Actress and the film won Special Prize of the Jury at the Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival. And it gets a spectacular 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Richard Brody of the New Yorker writing “what Alfred Hitchcock did for birds the French director Just Philippot does for grasshoppers in this extravagantly eerie, rootedly practical horror film.” Luckily for cowards like me, Netflix has added Poms, the 2019 Diane Keaton comedy, Keaton plays Martha, a woman with incurable cancer, who goes to a retirement community called Sun Springs, to be left alone to die. But she finds that impossible with neighbors like Sheryl(Jacki Weaver!), who finds Martha was once a cheerleader, so they decide to create a Sun Springs cheer group. Pam Grier(!), Rhea Perlman(!), Celia Weston, Phyllis Somerville, Alisha Boe and Carol Sutton also star, and Zara Hayes directed. And yes, it’s kind of corny and silly, but it has a wonderful cast of (great) older actors that I will tune in again to see. It gets a 6/10 on IMDb, and Katie Walsh of the L.A. Times said “why worry about dying when you can spend your time dancing? Although Poms is an imperfect package, one can’t help but take the message to heart.” I agree. I’m watching. Also new on Netflix is Pray Away, a 2021 documentary. Here, director Kristine Stolakis shows the damage that “gay conversion” therapy can do, with interviews with ex-members of the Exodus International, an evangelical conversion group that uses pseudo-psychology and prayer to “treat” gay members. But the shame intentionally incurred on members can be enormous, leading some, like John Paulk, a ‘poster boy’ for the group to the brink of suicide. We also get to hear from cofounder Michael Bussee, who talks with remorse about the hand he had in the self-hatred the program created. Brought to us by executive producers Ryan Murphy(!) and Jason Blum, this film is inspiring and disturbing at the same time, especially as it shows new evangelicals that will supposedly ‘convert’ through prayer. And it gets a 94(!) on Rotten Tomatoes. Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News called It “chilling,” and Carlos Aguilar of the Los Angeles Times writes “with every added account of shameful contrition, the realization that this issue exists very much in the present tense weighs heavy on the viewer…” I’m watching. And, finally, Netflix has added Autumn’s Concerto, a 2009 Taiwanese drama series. Vanness Wu stars, here, as Ren Guang Xi, a lawyer who has lost his memory after having to brain surgery to save his life, and paying the high price of giving up the girl he loved, Mu Cheng(Ady An), and instead betroths himself to his family’s choice Yi Qian(Ann Hsu). Years pass, and finally, his memory of Mu Cheng start to return, and he finds her in the countryside, raising the son he didn’t know they had. Chris Wu, Xiao Xiao Bin, Zheng You Jie, Linda Liu and Lin Jian Huan also star, and there are 34 episodes available to binge on now. And this series was nominated at the 2010 Golden Bell Awards, in Taiwan, and gets a stupendous 8/10 on IMDb. It’s on my list.
Amazon actually has one notably big add this week, with Val, the 2021 documentary. This gives us an intimate look at the last 40 years of Val Kilmer‘s life, and his up and down career, through his own videos and 16mm home movies, often filmed with his late brother Jack, who died at 16. Jack was Val’s favorite director and they filmed everything, with Val going on to video his on-set experience with a camcorder, or later his phone even going so far as to disrupt shooting of those films by doing so. In what Kilmer calls his ‘magical life,’ he may have been his worst enemy, with aspirations so high as to inhibit his enjoyment and appreciation of his lighter roles, like Batman and his Top Secret! role Nick Rivers. With Kilmer‘s son Jack narrating, as Val’s voice was inhibited by throat cancer and the ensuing surgery, this film tells all about his on set feuds with directors like John Frankenheimer, and even Kilmer’s cancer and his Christian Science-influenced beliefs that won’t allow him to admit he was ever sick. It’s sometimes sad, almost self-pitying, but fascinating material that was a hit at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in July, where codirectors Ting Poo and Leo Scott were nominated for the Golden Eye. And it gets a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Gary M. Kramer of Salon writing “the moral of Val, may be that Kilmer is his own worst enemy, an idea that gives the film its diffused power…. “Val certainly engenders sympathy, but at times it feels like crocodile tears.” It’s on my list. Also new on Amazon is Sunstroke, a 2014 Russian historical epic. Loosely based on the stories of Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Ivan Bunin, this takes place in 1920, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, in a prison camp, where a white Russian(tsarist) officer Martinsh Kalita awaits his fate in a prison camp in Crimea and remembers a brief and dramatic love affair with a woman he met on a ship, played by Viktoriya Solovyova. He also wonders how the empire fell, and who was to blame. As time goes on, the increasingly restive prisoners steal a boat to escape, thereby sealing their fate. Sergei Karpov, Anastasiya Imamova, Sergey Serov, Kseniya Popovich, Andrey Popovich and Kristina Kirillova also star, while award winning Nikita Mikhalkov(Close to Eden, Burnt by the Sun) directed. This was selected as the Russian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, and won 5 Golden Eagle Awards(Russia) in 2015, including Best Feature Film. And it gets a 5.8/10 on IMDb. I love period pieces, I’m watching. And, finally, Amazon has allowed access to season 1 of the original The Bridge, the 2011 Swedish/Danish noir mystery series. This follows the discovery of a dead body on the dead center of the Øresund Bridge, midway between Denmark and Sweden, and thereby requiring a joint investigation, with Swedish police detective Saga Norén and Danish detective Martin Rohde having to work together to solve the crime. But the body turns out to be two bodies, i.e. two halves of different women, with one part belonging to an important Swedish politician. Thure Lindhardt, Dag Malmberg, Sarah Boberg, Rafael Pettersson and Ann Petrén also star, and there are the 10 episodes comprising season 1 are available to devour now, But beware, this is dark, gory material, true Nordic noir. And it gets a stunning 8.6/10 on IMDb, that the Den of Geek calls “an unforgettable Scandinavian drama.” But be sure to absorb it all before August 31, when it disappears back to the Topic channel. I’m tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!