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 intriguing adds this week, so let’s get started!
The biggest add on Hulu this week has to be Nine Perfect Strangers, it’s 2021 original drama mini-series. Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty(Big Little Lies), this is the story of nine depressed and desperate strangers gathered together for healing and support at a cultish and secretive retreat, Tranquillum House, run by Masha(Nicole Kidman), where they are promised complete transformation. They include Frances(Melissa McCarthy) a writer, Napoleon (Michael Shannon!) a depressed father, Carmel (Regina Hall), and Tony(Bobby Carnavale). And at first, these guests are willing to go along with the wild, and sometimes scary, ideas that Masha has, but after awhile, they begin to wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. Samara Weaving, Tiffany Boone, Luke Evans, Grace Van Patten and Manny Jacinto also star, and this is a production of David E. Kelly too, like Big Little Lies. There are 3 episodes now available, with 6 more coming in future weeks. But this is pretty soapy stuff, and Nicole Kidman’s Russian accent can be pretty hard to take. And it gets a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Alison Herman of The Ringer says it “likely wouldn’t impress at any point in the calendar. But the Hulu miniseries, adapted from a novel of the same name by Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty, suffers from an especially serious case of bad timing.” I agree. Watch Big Little Lies on a 7-day free trial of HBO Max on Hulu here instead. Luckily, Hulu also has Jungleland, a 2019 drama. Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell star, here, as Stanley and Lion, two brothers thrown into trouble after Lion loses a pivotal fight, and his manipulative brother/manager Stanley machinations brings them big trouble(and debt) with a small time crime boss Pepper (Jonathan Majors), who threatens to break Lion‘s legs. Unless he fights in the Jungleland tournament in San Francisco, a bare knuckle brawling super event. Oh, and they have to ferry Sky(Jessica Barden) to Reno for Pepper as well. Fran Kranz, John Cullum, Meredith Holzman, Owen Burke and Nick Mullen also star, and this film is directed by Max Winkler(Flower), and yes, he’s Henry‘s son. And, no, it’s not perfect, but Charlie Hunnam‘s performance impressed many, as did the neon lit world they inhabit. And it gets a respectable 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News wrote it “is a raw and exciting effort from filmmaker Max Winkler. Hunnam, in particular, is a knockout.” Hulu also has Blast Beat, a 2020 drama. Here, real life brothers Mateo and Moises Arias plays brothers Carly and Mateo Andres, newly immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia, coming with big hopes and dreams. For Carly that includes going to a prestigious school and a career with NASA, and Mateo, or Teo, dreams of being an artist. But reality slaps them in the face, with bullying at school in Atlanta, and trouble with their papers. Diane Guerrero and Wilmer Valderrama play their parents, and Kali Uchis, Ava Capri and Daniel Dae Kim(!) also star, while Esteban Arango directs. And it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and vied for the Grand Jury Prize there, and Arango went on to win the Directors to Watch award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. And it gets a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Carlos Aguilar of TheWrap called it a “terrific bilingual debut that keenly scrutinizes the American Dream, those who pursue it vehemently, and the ones who reject it as the sole avenue to fulfillment.” I’m watching. And, finally, Hulu has added Unsane, the 2019 thriller starring Claire Foy(!). Foy plays Sawyer Valentini, a woman who relocates to Pennsylvania to elude a stalker who’s been threatening her for two years, only to be unwittingly committed to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center for a 24 hour voluntary stay, only to find herself unable to leave. While there, she becomes more and more certain her stalker is employed at the hospital. Joshua Leonard, Amy Irving(!), Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple and Gideon Frazier also star, while Steven Soderbergh(!) directed. and, no it’s not Soderbergh‘s best, like Traffic, Erin Brockovich or even Out of Sight, but it is still, of course, good. And it stars Claire Foy! And it gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Sandra Hall of the Sydney Morning Herald writing “it’s a clever film. And for all Soderbergh‘s reservations about Hollywood, it’s also confirmation of his mastery of its assorted genres, although he does suffer from an urge to see if he can juggle them all at the same time.” I’m watching.
The most exciting add on Netflix this week is The Chair, the 2021 drama series starring Sandra Oh(!). Here, Oh play Professor Ji-Yoon Kim, newly named to head the English Department at Pembroke University which is in turmoil after scandal after Professor Bill Dobson(Jay DuPlass) is caught on camera making a Heil Hitler gesture, out of context, putting his job in jeopardy. And an older female professor(and Kim‘s mentor) Joan Hamblin(Holland Taylor!)consigned to the basement of the campus wellness center, perhaps because of her gender, and the only black female member of the faculty, Yaz McKay (Nana Mensah), can’t get recognition or even the Dean, Paul Larson(David Morse), to pronounce her name correctly. Everly Carganilla plays Ji-Yoon’s daughter, Ju-Hee, and Bob Balaban(!), Ron Crawford, Ji-yong Lee, Marcia Debonis and Ella Rubin also star, and there are 6 wonderful 30-minute episodes available to devour now. Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyamn are the creators of this show, and it gets an amazing 7.7/10 on IMDb. Jen Chaney of Vulture writes “this wry, observant portrait of the messy scholars charged with preparing young adults to live lives of purpose — and, ideally, some potential to repay their student loans — makes you wish the semester went on for a little while longer.” I am definitely tuning in. Netflix also offers Everything Will Be Fine, a 2021 Mexican comedy/drama. Here, we visit the marriage of Ruy (Flavio Medina) and Julia (Lucía Uribe Bracho), which is falling apart, but they still live together to bolster their rather neurotic daughter Andrea (Isabella Vázquez Morales), plagued by nightmares about killer chickens and general anxiety. Which puts a huge strain on the pair, who might even retain feelings for their partner. Mercedes Hernández plays their stoic, and sometimes confused, housekeeper Idalia, and Úrsula Pruneda, Vicky Araico, Pierre Louis, Carmen Beato, Alberto Lomnitz and Silverio Palacios also star, and there are 8 episodes available for streaming now. And this series written and directed by Diego Luna, of Y Tu Mamá También. And it gets a 5.4/10 on IMDb, but it’s very early, and The Decider says ” the acting in this series is strong, and Diego Luna has set up a situation that is fraught with pain. ” And it’s funny, too. So I’m watching. But Netflix also has Out of My League, a 2020 Italian comedy. Ludovica Fransceconi stars as Marta, a young woman with Cystic Fibrosis who’s tired of feeling rejected on her dating app, and so goes after the real thing, a guy she admires from afar, Arturo(Arturo Maggio). So when to her surprise she gets a date, albeit to a family dinner, she goes for broke. The only trouble is, she doesn’t tell him about her condition, or the shorter lifespan that goes with it. Eleonora Gaggero, Elisabetta Coraini, Jozef Gjura and Gaja Masciale also star, and Alice Filippi directed. And yes, it’s kind of corny, but it’s also funny and edgy. So even though it gets only a 5.6/10 on IMDb, I agree with LeisureByte when it says its “utterly romantic and so very sad, Out of My League is the movie to watch if you need all the feels.” It’s on my list. Netflix also offers The Defeated, a new historical mystery series. Taylor Kitsch stars as Brooklyn police officer Max McLoughlin, who is secretly looking for his missing brother Moritz(Logan Marshall-Green)in post-war Berlin, while helping German professor turned police officer Elsie Garter (Nina Hoss) fight crime in a city on the brink of chaos. They investigate the death of a girl called Anne Friedrich, and strains with Russian officials start to show. Michael C. Hall, Tuppence Middleton, Maximilian Ehrenreich, Anne Ratte-Polle, Mala Emde and Lena Dörrie also star, and there are 8 episodes now available for viewing. And this series gets a 6.6/10 on IMDb. The Review Geek calls it “An engaging post-war thriller,” with ” great set design, an interesting story and likeable protagonists.” I’m tuning in. I love a mystery. And finally, Netflix has Pahuna, a 2018 Indian Nepali language film. This tells a tale of three children, Pranay(Anmol Limbu), Amrita (Ishika Gurung) and Bishai, who are on the run after their Nepali village is attacked with gunshots, originally with their mother Manju(Manju KC). But when their mother turns back to save their father, the children are on their own, traversing miles through high forests to reach safety, while along the way they hear of baby eating Christians(!), that fuel their fears on their trek. Saran Rai, Mahendra Bajga, Binod Pradhan, Uttam Pradhan and Banita Lagun also star, and Pakhi Tyrewala directed. And this beautiful and uplifting movie gets a stunning 7.5/10 on IMDb. Bedatri D. Choudhury of Vague Visages wrote “at a deeper level, for us adults, Pahuna is a reality check, a question we are uncomfortable answering. It asks us and our governments about the world we are leaving behind for the future generations.” I’m definitely watching.
Amazon has one huge add with Annette, the 2021 musical romantic drama. Adam Driver stars as stand-up comedian Henry McHenry, and Marion Cotillard(!) stars as world-famous soprano Ann Desfranoux, his wife who gives birth to their child Annette, soon after the wedding. But things go awry as Ana’s career soars, while Henry‘s plummets, and care for Annette(played by a puppet) falls to him. Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell, Natalia Lafourcade, Rebecca Sjöwall, Nino Porzio and Rila Fukushima also star, while Leos Carax(Les Amants du Pont-Neuf) directs. And Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks, wrote the screenplay and provide the music and songs as well. This won standing ovations at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and two awards, there for Best Director for Carax, and the Cannes Soundtrack Award for the Mael brothers. And it gets a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, with David Sims of The Atlantic saying “the conundrum rattled me after I left the theater… More than the constant singing, that’s the way Annette most resembles the sublime tragedy of great opera: You know the sad ending is coming, but the entire time, you’re wishing for a way to stop it.” Watch if you dare. Amazon also offers season 1 of the Frankie Drake Mysteries, the CBC mystery series. Set in 1920’s Toronto, Frankie Drake(Lauren Lee Smith) and her partner Trudy(Chantel Riley) try to keep their all female detective agency afloat in spite of the misogyny that rules, and find quite a bit of intrigue and success. Rebecca Liddiard stars as Mary Shaw, a morality officer(because women couldn’t actually be police officers), and Sharron Matthews as Flo Chakowitz, a morgue attendant, two integral women who both help out at the agency when they can, and the great Wendy Crewson stars as Frankie’s estranged mother(and con artist). Karen Robinson, Grace Lynn Kung, Romaine Waite, Emmanuel Kabongo and Anthony Lemke also star, and there are 11 episodes to devour before September 1, when they disappear back to the premium territory of PBS Masterpiece. And this series gets an incredible 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Hanh Nguyen of IndieWire writing it “unwhitewashes history, little by little.” And I love a mystery, I’m tuning in. And finally, Amazon offers the 1st season of Bannan, a 2015 Scottish Gaelic drama courtesy of the MHZ Channel. Debbie MacKay stars, here, as Màiri MacDonald, who after 8 years, returns to the Isle of Skye where she grew up for a funeral. And it brings back the family turmoil that bought her to leave(Bannan means “family bonds’ in Gaelic), and the challenges of a rural and isolated life. Cailean Collier, Domhnall Eoin MacKinnon, Ali MacLennan, Donna Morrison and Daibhidh Walker also star, and there are 8 episodes available to enjoy now, but do hurry, there are only 11 days left until it, too, disappears onto the premium channel of MHZ Choice. And it gets an incredible 7.7/10 on IMDb. But it is in Gaelic, so do turn on subtitles, unless of course, you’re better informed in linguistics than I.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!