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 few adds of note this week, with one new movie added, Funhouse, a 2019 horror flick. Valter Skarsgård stars as Kasper Nordin, a backup singer on the skids who’s also the ex of a celebrity, who gets invited to compete in the Funhouse, a reality show competition like Big Brother. Joined by 7 other less-than-notable celebs, they at first have a fun time, with wild parties, but then, of course things turn sinister, and deadly. Gigi Saul Guerrero, Khamisa Wilsher, Christopher Gerard and Karolina Benefield also star, while Jason William Lee directed. But unless you want something laughably awful, so bad that it actually gets a 0%(!) on Rotten Tomatoes, I wouldn’t watch. Carla Hay of Culture Mix wrote “Even die-hard horror fans will be disgusted by the abyss of stupidity and awful filmmaking in Funhouse. There are trash dumps and toilets that have more redeeming qualities than Funhouse.” The New York Times Presents has added a follow up to their Framing Britney Spears episodes, with Controlling Britney Spears. This shows with disturbing detail how Spears was surveilled by the security firm, Black Box Security, hired by her father and conservator, Jamie Spears, supposedly to protect her. One employee, Alex Vlasov, testifies as to how Spears’ house was bugged, even her bedroom, with recordings made of her interactions with her boyfriend and children. Vlasov backs up his claims with emails, texts and audio recordings, and goes on to say “It really reminded me of somebody that was in prison.” They even acquired access to her iPhone, always special attention always paid to her boyfriends. But her girlfriends too, were kept away from her, and finally, when the #FreeBritney movement became popular, it was infiltrated on behalf of the conservators. Samantha Stark directs with Liz Daly acting as supervising producer and reporter, and though there are no ratings yet available, the preceding episodes Framing Britney Spears gets a 6.9/10 on IMDb, and was nominated for 2 Emmy Awards. And this shocking statement on conservatorship and its abuses in this country, especially in the case of women, is so important to see. I’m watching. Oh, and Hulu added the 2014 French Canadian drama Mommy earlier this month. Anne Dorval stars in the title role, Diane “Die” Després, a recent widow left to care for her son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a teen with ADHDwith a tendency toward violent outbursts, as well as difficulty learning in a conventional setting. So, after Die is forced into home schooling, she asks her reclusive neighbor Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a teacher on sabbatical, for help. And, together, they begin to form an unusual, but effective family. Alexandre Goyette, Patrick Huard, Michèle Lituac, Viviane Pascal and Isabelle Nélisse also star, and Xavier Dolan(Heartbeats) directed. And Mommy won numerous awards in 2015,with 9(!) acquired at the Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, and Best Director, and got the César Award for Best Foreign Film in France that year, too. And it gets an amazing 8.1/10 on IMDb. Mark Kermode of the Observer(UK) said “Dorval and Clément are both exceptional, their brilliantly controlled performances contrasting with the explosive energy of rising star Pilon, who looks set to burst out of the screen and into the auditorium.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Hulu has added About Endlessness, a 2019 Swedish drama film. Here, we’re led through a series of humorous vignettes depicting everyday life in Sweden by an unnamed woman, with stories of love and life, with a recurring figure played by Martin Serner. Serner plays a priest, experiencing a crisis of faith, and not knowing where to turn. Jessica Louthander is our narrator, and Tatiana Delaunay, Anders Hellström, Jan-Eje Ferling and Magnus Wallgren also star, and the masterful Roy Andersson(A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, World of Glory) directing. This film won the Silver Lion prize for Best Direction at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, along with Best Director at the Dublin Film Critics Award. And it gets a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News writing, “Roy Andersson is one of our greatest living filmmakers that you never heard of. Here’s your chance to dive in.” I’m watching.
The biggest add on Netflix this week has to be Midnight Mass, the horror limited series from director Mike Flanagan(The Haunting of Hill House). Hamish Linklater(The Big Short, Tell Me Your Secrets) stars as Father Paul, a young, charismatic priest, newly appointed church, St. Patrick’s, in the rundown island fishing community of Crockett Island. There he encounters Riley(Zach Gilford), newly released from prison after killing a girl while driving drunk. Since that woman quite literally haunts Riley, he goes to Father Paul in desperation. But is the priest a force for good, or evil? Annabeth Gish, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Michael Trucco, Rahul Kohli and Annarah Cymone also star, and there are 7 episodes available to gorge on now. And Midnight Mass gets an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.9/10 on IMDb. Kristen Baldwin of Entertainment Weekly says it “makes up for the somewhat predictable nature of its mystery with the thoughtful and varied ways the characters react to the changes overtaking Crockett Island.” But too scary for me. Luckily, Netflix also offers Je Suis Karl, a 2021 German/Czech drama. Luna Wedler stars as Maxi, here, a young woman, who, along with her father, Alex (Milan Peschel), survives a bombing that killed her mother Inés (Mélanie Fouché), and two of her brothers. And soon she finds herself going to a student summit, courtesy of Karl (Jannis Niewöhner), leader of a far right, anti-immigrant group that seeks to exploit her “victim” status, since the bombers were assumed to be Islamic terrorists. But were they? Aziz Dyab, Marlon Boess, Anna Fialová, fleur Geffrier, Victor Boccard and Elizaveta Maximová also star, while Christian Schwochow directs. And though this film gets only a 5.4/10 on IMDb, it was also nominated for 4 awards at the German Film Awards in 2021, including Outstanding Feature Film. Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily wrote “with its glossy thriller-romance premise, and affecting leads, Je Suis Karl should find an intrigued audience…” It’s on my list. Netflix has also added also The Starling, a 2021 comedy/drama starring Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy stars, here, as Lilly Maynard, a woman dealing with the loss of her baby daughter to SIDS, while her husband Jack(Chris O’Dowd) is being treated at the facility, New Horizons, for his depression after the death. After Lilly is directed toward veterinarian, and former psychiatrist, Larry(Kevin Kline!) for help, she discovers a strong connection to a feisty and combative starling in her yard, trying to raise and protect it’s own young. Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Matt Harris, Theodore Melfi also star, and Theodore Melfi(Hidden Figures!) directs. And, yes, it’s a bit predictable and emotional; it gets a mere 5.9/10 on IMDb. But I agree with Adam Graham of the Detroit News who says “[it] isn’t exactly subtle- its quirks are exacerbated by a pushy soundtrack- but there is warmth and truth in its performances, particularly McCarthy and O’Dowd.” I’m tuning in. Another notable add on Netflix is Confessions of an Invisible Girl, a 2021 Brazilian comedy drama. Klara Castanho stars as Teanira or Tetê, as she prefers to be called, beset by bullying and teasing at her new school, after her unemployed parents move to Copacabana in Rio, for a fresh start. So she set out to make friends and be a social success, even if it takes some fighting. Gabriel Lima, Marus Bessa, Fernanda Concon,Caio Cabral and Stepan Nercessian also star, with Bruno Garetti directing. and no, it’s not perfect, it gets only a 5.6/10 on IMDb, but the pickings are rather slim on Netflix this week, and I love Klara Castanho’s performance. So it’s on my list. And, finally, Netflix has added Jaguar, a 2021 Spanish action drama series. Blanca Suárez stars as Isabel Garrido, a young woman in 1962 Madrid, intent on avenging the deaths of her family in WWII concentration camps at the hands of Otto Bachmann (Stefan Weinert). She’s so intent on revenge that she’s recruited by a team of Spaniards who apparently want to bring Nazis to justice themselves, including notorious Nazi doctor, Aribert Heim (Jochen Horst). Iván Marcos, Adrián Lastra, Óscar Casas and Francesc Garrido also star, and there are 8 episodes now available for binging. While it’s too early for many ratings, IMDb give it 5.6/10, and the reviews are good. Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal writes “the power of Jaguar is considerable, no small thanks to the caustic history it recounts, particularly about things like the “ratlines,” networks devoted to helping Nazi war criminals to flee.” I’m definitely tuning in.
Amazon has only one movie added this week, Birds of Paradise, a 2021 YA drama. Diana Silvers(Booksmart) stars as Kate Sanders, and Kristine Froseth(The Assistant) stars as Martine Durand, two dancers and competitors for the one open slot at the Opéra national de Paris, who, though opposites, seem to become close friends. But as the competition increases and a new romance begins, pressure strain their friendship to the breaking point. Jacqueline Bisset(!), Toby Huss, Eva Lomby, Solomon Golding and Alice Dardenne also star, and Sarah Adina Smith(The Midnight Swim) directs. And yes, there are valid comparisons here to Black Swan for the younger crowd, and even Center Stage or The Turning Point, which may account for it’s mere 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. But Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service writes “this tale is familiar, and a bit formulaic, though singed with scandal, but the appeal of Birds of Paradise is its ultra-cool style.” So if you crave dance and melodrama, this may be for you. I’d rather watch Uprising, the 2021 documentary limited documentary series from executive producer/co-director Steve McQueen. Here, McQueen chronicles 3 key events in the 1980’s British battle for civil rights, the New Cross Fire, the Black People’s Day of Action and the Brixton Riots. I am always interested in history, but these become especially interesting because they were the backdrop for some of the Small Axe series(on Amazon, as well). The New Cross Fire killed 13 young black people aged between 14 and 22 in 1981, with little reaction from authorities, and so led to the Black People’s Day of Action, the first organized protest by Black Britons. And the Brixton Riots, too, were a reaction to inaction on the part of (white) authorities. And this 3-part series gets a stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Rebecca Nicholson of the Guardian calls it “furious, devastating TV.” I’m definitely watching. And, finally, Amazon has the 1st season of Back to Life, a 2019 British dark comedy. Daisy Haggard(creator of this series) stars, here, as Miri Matteson, newly returned home to Hythe, Kent, after serving an 18-year prison sentence. But a return to civilian life after almost two decades inside isn’t easy, and Miri has to learn everything from opening a bank account to transportation(she borrows her friend’s daughter’s bike. And she slowly makes friends with Billy(Adeel Akhtar), a caregiver across the street. Geraldine James, Christine Bottomley, Richard Durden, Lizzy McInnerny and Adrian Edmondson also star, and there are 6 episodes to enjoy before October 1, when it slips back into Showtime territory. And it gets an incredible 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. John Doyle of the Daily Mail said “he melancholy world it depicts, with humour, is heartbreaking. It’s a masterpiece and truly, starkly original.” And, if you don’t finish in time, or just want more, as mentioned last week, Amazon has a special deal on Showtime, charging only $5.49 a month for 6 months, then reverting to the regular charge of $10.99! But act fast, because the offer is only good through tomorrow, September 26! Get it here.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!