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!
Hulu has some big adds this week, like Swan Song, the 2021 comedy starring Udo Kier(Shadow of the Vampire). Kier stars as Pat Pitsenbarger, an ex-hairdresser (and ex-drag queen) who escapes his humdrum existence at a nursing home in Sandusky, Ohio, when he learns his star client, Rita Parker Sloan(Linda Evans!) requested he style her hair and make-up for her wake, upon her death. He hitchhikes his way to the funeral home, but in fits and starts, needing the supplies, and courage to do the big job on a woman he adored. Along the way he meets old friends like Dee Dee(Jennifer Coolidge!), Eunice (Ira Hawkins), and even the ghost of his past lover David (Eric Eisenbrey), who he lost to AIDS. Michael Urie, Justin Lonesome, Roshon Thomas, Tom Bloom, Dave Sorboro and Stephanie McVay also star, while Todd Stephens directs. Swan Song has already been nominated for multiple awards in 2021, and won at the Best Film and Best Actor for Kier at the Monte-Carlo Comedy Film Festival, and look for it at the Oscars and Golden Globes soon, as well. And it gets an amazing 93%, with Sara Stewart of Book & Film Globe writing “it’s lovely to see Kier, a workhouse German character actor, in his first leading role in, apparently, 50 years.” I’m tuning in. Hulu also offers The First Wave, a 2021 documentary. directed and produced by Matthew Heineman(City of Ghosts), this film gives us an intimate glimpse of the terrible effect of the wave of Covid-19 in March to June of 2020, as it hit New York City for the first time. Given special access to the Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center, Heineman follows the nurses, EMTs and doctors that fought that difficult and brave fight, 24 hours a day, sometimes, in their effort to save as many people as they could, and palliate the suffering of those they could not save. The exhaustion, both physical and emotional, becomes plain, while the mortality and anguish of their patients looms all around them. It’s an amazing film that has already won multiple awards this year, like Jury Award and Best Documentary Feature at the Philadelphia Film Festival and the David Carr Award for Truth in Non-Fiction Filmmaking at the Montclair Film Festival. And it gets a stunning 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post said it “feels simultaneously hard to watch and vital, tragic and uplifting, like a backward glimpse over our shoulder at a period of conflict and struggle – in more ways than one – that we’re not quite done living through yet.” I’m watching. Also new on Hulu is Materna, a 2020 drama. This movie considers the lives of four women whose paths cross on a NYC subway ride, where a troubled man(Sturgill Simpson) talks incessantly, upsetting the passengers around him. There’s Jean(Kate Lyn Sheil), a rich tech worker, Mona(Jade Eshete), an out of work actress, Ruth (Lindsay Burdge), a toxically conservative mom and Perizad(Assol Abdullina). Rory Culkin, Zhamilya Sydykbaeva, Michael Chernus, Cassandra Freeman and the late Jamal Seidakmatova also star, and David Gutnik directed. This film has won multiple awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the 2021 Florida Film Festival, and Best Actress(Abdullina), Best Actor(Rory Culkin) and Best Cinematography for Greta Zozula, Chananun Chotrungroj and Kelly Jeffrey at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. And yet, it gets only a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, perhaps because each story seems a bit fragmented. Nick Schager of Variety wrote “Sheil, Abdullina, Burdge and especially Eshete’s performances are attuned to the material’s fundamental air of incompleteness and instability.”You decide. And, finally, Hulu has added the British comedy series, Bloods. This gives us a look at the kooky incompetents who make up the South London Ambulance Service, with EMTs Mareek(Samson Kayo) and Wendy (Jane Horrocks), newly partnered, given center stage. Mareek was formerly partnered with Kevin (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), who left the team in a huff after his partner accidentally “defibbed” (electrocuted) him. Lucy Punch stars as station boss, Jo, always looking for love in the wrong places, and Aasiya Shah as Kareshma, an overly aggressive up and comer. Julian Barratt, Adrian Scarborough, Sam Campbell, Ellie White and Leke Adebayo also star, and there are 6 episodes available to enjoy now. This series was nominated for Best Comedy at the Venice TV Awards, and gets a 6/10 on IMDb. And Sean O’Grady of The Independent calls it “a magnificent paramedic comedy full of gallows humour.” I’m watching.
The super-huge add on Netflix this week is The Unforgivable, the 2021 Sandra Bullock drama. Here, Bullock stars as Ruth Slater, a woman newly released from prison, after serving 20 years for the killing of a policeman during a chaotic eviction. But her return to society is difficult, as many, like the cop’s sons, Steve and Keith (Will Pullen and Tom Guiry), do not think she served enough time, but Ruth thinks only of locating her long absent sister, Katherine(Aisling Franciosi), adopted after her arrest. Vincent D’Onofrio, Viola Davis(!),Jon Bernthal, Richard Thomas and Linda Emond also star, while Nora Fingscheidt(System Crasher)directs. And this movie was based on the 2009 British mini-series Unforgiven. But what was a good concept doesn’t pan out here, and so Unforgivable gets only a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. Robert Daniels of Polygon writes “despite a deep ensemble led by a transformative Bullock, Unforgivable moves at a turgid pace, lacking the urgency and pathos required in a redemption narrative.” Better to watch the original Unforgiven mini-series on a 7-day free trial of Britbox here. Luckily, Netflix also offers Aranyak, a 2021 Hindi mystery series. Raveena Tandon plays Inspector Kasturi Dogra, investigating the death of a young woman in the sleepy town of Shinorah, when her successor Angad Malik (Parambrata Chattopadhyay), potentially inhibiting her investigations. The townspeople believe the legendary Leopard-man is responsible to the killings, and when more women disappear, Inspector Dogra begins to wonder herself. Meghna Malik, Zakir Hussian, Saurav Khurana, Mahesh Shetty Taneesha Joshi, Wishvesh Sharkholi and Ashutosh Rana also star, and there are 8 episodes available to devour now. And this series gets an incredible 8.2/10 on IMDb. Amartya Acharya of HIghOnFilms calls it “a densely plotted thriller [that]manages to make sense of all of its myriad of threads and deliver.” I’m tuning in. But Netflix also has A Boy Called Christmas, a 2021 British holiday movie. Based on Matt Haig’s bestselling book, this tells the story of Nikolas, played by Henry Lawfull, living in a spare life in Finland with his bereaved, woodcutter father Joel (Michiel Huisman), who goes in search of Joel and the land of the elves. He travels with the smart aleck mouse Miika (Stephen Merchant), on his shoulder, while meeting talking reindeer like Blitzen and, of course, danger, as well. Toby Jones(!), Maggie Smith(!), Kristin Wiig(!), Sally Hawkins(!) and Jim Broadbent(!) also star, while Gil Kenan directs. And I know it sounds corny, but the witty edge supplied by Matt Haig’s adaptation, aided by Gil Kenan and Ol Parker, cuts the sweetness just enough. And this magical movie gets an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Kevin Maher of the Times (UK) writes its “warm, entertaining and unpretentious. Only a true Scrooge could resist.” I agree. I’m watching. Also new and notable on Netflix is Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf, the 2019 award-winning drama. This tells the tale of Marjoun, played by Veracity Butcher, a teen in Arkansas whose life is hit by tragedy when her beloved father Aabid (Tarek Bishara) is jailed under dubious terror charges, and her mother Amani (Clara Khoury), descends into depression. This leaves Marjoun and her younger sister Jinane (Maram Aljahmi), but also drives the teen to free her father from prison, whatever it takes. Dominic Rains, Alex Bilbane, Malcolm Rigsby, Jacob Farah and Hannah Youssef also star, and Susan Youssef(Habibi) directed. This film was nominated for Best Film at the 2019 Miami Film Festival, and gets an astounding 9/10 on IMDb. Christopher Llewellyn Reed of Hammer to Nail said “with exquisite attention to detail, Youssef follows her characters through their travails, exploring an extraordinary amount of narrative territory in such a short feature.” I’m tuning in. And, finally, Netflix offers Asakusa Kid, a 2019 Japanese biographical drama. This tells the (mostly)true story of famed comic Takeshi Kitano(Yuya Yagira), a college dropout in 70‘s who finds himself working as an elevator boy at France-za, a burlesque club, where he meets a legendary vaudevillian Fukami (Yo Oizumi), who takes him under his wing, while maintaining a disdain for Manzai, a new Japanese two man comedy style. So when Kitano learns much from Fukami, but, with growing popularity, goes into Manzai, he breaks his mentor’s heart. Nobuyiki Tsuchiya, Mugi Kadowaki, Honami Suzuki, Hiroyuki Onoue and Hachiro Azuma also star, while Gekidan Hitori(A Bolt From the Blue) directs. And this gets an amazing 7.2/10 on IMDb. Christina Geani of Ready Steady Cut calls it “a good reflective movie behind the reality of the exterior we’ve seen in TV or showbiz industries.” I’m watching.
Amazon’s gigantic add this week is Encounter, a 2021 sci-fi drama. Riz Ahmed(!) stars as Malik Khan, a U.S. Marine who spend two years on a secret mission, apparently fighting an alien invasion involving a parasite passed by mosquito bite, and who suddenly comes for his two sons, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) to escape into the night. His ex-wife Piya (Janina Gavankar) may be infected, and virtually everyone now is suspected of alien infection, imperceptible to the naked eye. So they must run for their lives,, trusting no one. Octavia Spencer(!), Misha Collins, Rory Cochrane and Shane McRae also star, with Michael Pearce(The Beast) directing. And though it gets only a 56% only Rotten Tomatoes, this is my kind of movie. Mark Kermode of the Observer writes it’s “an affecting meld of inner and outer worlds in which family stresses and extraterrestrial spectres collide.” I’m definitely tuning in. Amazon also offers the 1st season of The Gulf, a 2019 mystery/thriller series from New Zealand. Kate Elliott stars as Detective Jess Savage, returned to work at her home of quiet Waiheke Island, to investigate an old case involving a missing girl, all the while trying to solve her own mystery, after being left with no memory of what happened in a car accident where her husband was killed, but she escaped. Ido Drent, Allison Bruce, Ross Branigan, Timmie Cameron and Dahnu Graham also star, and there are 6 episodes to binge on now. But be sure to finish all 6 before December 31, when this series returns to Acorn tv on Amazon, only to be seen for $6.99 a month. This show won the NSW & ACT Silver Award at the 2020 Australian Cinematographers Society, and gets a 6.6/10 on IMDb. Duncan Grieve of The Spinoff calls it “a genuinely world-class crime drama set on Waiheke island.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Amazon has added Coyote Lake, a 2019 mystery/thriller. Camila Mendes plays Ester, here, who leaves with her mother Teresa (Adriana Barraza of Amores Perros!) who live by Coyote Lake on the Texas/Mexico border, who run a boarding house, often visited by threatening and violent men like drug dealers, and coyotes. So Teresa and Ester often dispense of these men, usually with poison, with Teresa saying it’s a “good thing.” But when a young criminal, Paco (Andres Velez), forces the pair to take in and treat wounded Ignacio (Manny Perez), at gun point, Ester is faced with the dilemma of defying her mother, and saving Paco, which may be a dangerous thing for her. Charlie Weber, Raquel Gavia, Neil Sandilands, Tyler Silva and Luisina Quarleri also star, and Sara Seligman directs. And this movie gets a very respectable 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Roxana Hadadi of AWFJ Women on Film writing “although [it]doesn’t deviate too much from the narrative you would expect, it’s the details Seligman incorporates throughout that make this thriller a promising debut.” I’m watching.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!