Yes, it’s that time, New Year’s Day and time to review the best new movies and television shows added online this week, to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. And, after a brief holiday hiatus, there are lots of exciting new adds , so let’s get started!
Okay, Hulu has only three new adds worthy of holiday viewing, the first being Together, the 2021 comedy. James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan star as an unnamed couple, living in suburban London, who are trying to survive the Covid lockdown and their seemingly doomed marriage, at the same time. Playing untitled characters called only He and She, six scenes make up this film, starting with the first days of lockdown, March 23, 2020, and covering one full year until March 23, 2021. Together they withstand losing their jobs, Her mother being stricken with Covid and hospitalized, and caring for their child, who’s withdrawn and fearful of the disease. Samuel Logan plays that child, Artie, and completes the small cast, and Stephen Daldry(The Hours!) directs. McAvoy won the Best Actor – Television Award for his role here at the 2021 BAFTA Awards Scotland, and the film gets a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jesse Hassenger of the AV Club said “when Together confronts the helpless living nightmare of a pandemic’s ongoing irresolution, it taps into a scary rawness.” But don’t worry, it’s funny, too. I’m watching. And, the only other good add on Hulu this week is My Salinger Year, a 2020 drama. Margaret Qualley stars as Joanna, here, an aspiring writer who goes to work for Margaret, played by Sigourney Weaver, JD. Salinger’s literary agent. As she is assigned to handling Salinger‘s fan letters, she is crestfallen, and as she gets tired of the form response she is given to reply, Joanna begins to write her own fanciful answers to the devoted fans. And it changes her life. Douglas Booth, Seána Kerslake, Colm Feore and Brian F. O’Byrne also star, and Philippe Falardeau(It’s Not Me, I Swear!) directs. And this film is based on the 2014 memoir by Joanna Rakoff. And it, too, gets a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. Charlotte O’Sullivan of London Evening Standard wrote “Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley are two of the juiciest actresses in America and, thanks to them, this period drama is never less than tantalising.” And that’s why I’m tuning in. And, finally, Hulu has added Colewell, a 2019 drama. Karen Allen(!) stars as Nora, here, an older postal worker in charge of the Colewell Post Office, conveniently situated in her own house in Pennsylvania. After the death of her husband, she enjoys a secluded life, feeding her chickens, and interacting with the customers. But all that is threatened with the impending closure of the Post Office, and when they offer her only a transfer, it adds only to her dread at leaving her little town. Kevin J. O’Connor, Hannah Gross, Malachy Cleary, Daniel Jenkins and Craig Walker also star, and Tom Quinn directed, along with writing the script. And this film gets an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “but as a rich character piece, emblazoned by Allen, who relishes her rare leading role…..[that] pays eloquent tribute to a woman who fights against a life erased.” I’m definitely watching.
Netflix has some huge adds this holiday week, like The Lost Daughter, the 2021 dramatic thriller directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. In her directorial debut, Gyllenhaal adapts Elena Ferrante‘s 2008 novel of the same name, which features Leda, played by Olivia Colman, a professor of comparative and Italian literature, arriving at a Geek Island for working vacation. But, as Leda glimpses of the interactions between a mother, Nina(Dakota Johnson) and her young daughter, Elena, bring back disturbing memories of her own traumatic experiences as a young mother, and though Leda seems boring and quotidian at first, it becomes clear nothing is as it seems. Ed Harris(!), Peter Sarsgaard, Dagmara Dominczyk, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Paul Mescal and Jessie Buckley(as the young Leda) also star, and Hélène Louvart masterfully served as cinematographer. This film has already had multiple wins and nominations at film festivals this year, like the Best Feature, Outstanding Lead Performance for Colman, and Best Screenplay and Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for Gyllenhaal at the 2021 Gotham Awards, Best First Film for Gyllenhaal at the 2021 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, and was named one of the Top Films of the Year by the 2021 New York Film Critics(online). And Academy Award nominations are sure to come. and it gets a phenomenal 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Robert Daniels of Polygon calling it “a sharply crafted, clear-eyed interrogation of less-than-likable parents, ebbs and flows on the strength of this reality, along with a few immense performers from its veteran ensemble.” I’m tuning in. But Netflix also has Don’t Look Up, the 2021 sci-fi satire. Written, produced, and directed by Adam McKay(The Big Short), this features Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, as Dr. Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, respectively, two astronomers who have spotted a comet plummeting toward Earth, which is projected to hit in 6 months, and could cause an extinction event. so they go to the White House, and present their results to the president, Janie Orlean(Meryl Streep!)along with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office head Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe(Rob Morgan). But, of course, little happens, the president is unmoved, and so they go to the press and leak the story. But little happens until President Orlean is involved in a scandal, which leads to a space program to destroy the comet. But only folly and ineptitude ensue, until the comet looms on the horizon. Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance(!), Tyler Perry and Timothée Chalamet also star, and this was already named one of the top ten films of 2021 by the National Board of Review and American Film Institute. It’s also received four nominations at the Golden Globes, including Best Picture, and is sure to see more nods at the Academy Awards. But, despite it’s all-star cast and pedigree, this film just doesn’t pan out. So it gets only a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, with James Berardinelli of ReelView writing “its a failure on too many levels and, although the viewing numbers may satisfy Netflix, it’s a shock to see such a high-profile film self-destruct.” You decide. I’d rather watch Anxious People, a 2021 Swedish mystery/thriller limited series. The Christmas holidays in a town near Stockholm are turned upside down, when a masked bank robber on the run takes a group of people at an open house hostage. When the father and son police duo, Jack Johansson (Alfred Svensson) and father Jim (Dan Ekborg) investigate the occurrence, and question the former hostages(after the robber disappears), it seems everyone there has something to hide No two descriptions of the robber match, and some of the reports are downright ridiculous. Can they solve the crime before the pros from Stockholm are called in? Leif Andrée, Marika Lagercrantz, Lottie Ejebrant, Per Andersson, Carla Sehn and Anna Granath also star, and there are 6 episodes available for streaming now. And this series is based on a novel by Fredrik Backman. And it gets a 7/10(!) on IMDb, and Joel Keller of the Decider calls it “funny and poignant and keep[s] a balance between the two.” It’s on my list. Netflix also offers Level 16, a 2018 Canadian sci-fi thriller. This takes place in a dystopian girl’s school, where the students are taught to be submissive and passive, and discourages friendships and bonds between the students. So when two girls, Vivien (Katie Douglas) and Sophia (Celina Martin), become friends, they must hide it, or risk being outed by the other students. Meanwhile, the pair struggle to find what is really going on and what they are bound for after Level 16, the last year at the institution. Amalia Williamson, Sara Canning, Kate Vickery, Josette Halpert, Kiana Madeira and Peter Outerbridge also star, with Danishka Esterhazy directing. And it gets an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas of AWFJ Women on Film writing its “an engaging, earnest and thrilling feminist fairy tale that both consciously riffs on earlier films and yet maintains an original vision without becoming clichéd or predictable.” It’s on my list. And, finally, Netflix has Silent Sea, a 2021 sci-fi thriller series from South Korea. This takes place in a near-future world where Earth is again imperiled, this time by widespread desertification, with an accompanying lack of water and food, and so a mission to the moon is arranged, in search of a mysterious substance found there at earlier, at Balbae Station. The crew doesn’t know what the substance is, but they do know that the earlier mission ended in disaster, and they must get to Balbae Station before it is permanently shut down. Bae Doona stars as astrobiologist Doctor Song Ji-an, Gong Yoo as the leader of the team, Han Yoon-jae, and Lee Joon as head engineer Lieutenant Ryoo Tae-seok.Kim Sun-young, Kim Si-A, Lee Moo-saeng, Lee Sung-Wook and Choi Yong-Woo also star, and there are 8 episodes available to binge on now. And it gets an impressive 7/10 on IMDb, and Daniel D’Addario of Variety said “the highs of The Silent Sea are indeed high, and the show clears the low bar of having a good deal on its mind.” And I might add this is real science fiction, great attention to authenticity, and some of the best spacescapes seen in movies this year. I’m definitely tuning in.
And of course, Amazon has a huge holiday add with Being the Ricardos, the 2021 biopic from Aaron Sorkin. Nicole Kidman plays the legendary Lucille Ball, with (Javier Bardem playing the famed bandleader Desi Arnaz, as the pair navigate some very difficult days during the 50‘s, when Ball was accused(by Walter Winchell) of being a communist, during the dark days of the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the mean time, their marriage is on the rocks, as Arnaz‘ philandering becomes an issue once again. Oh, and Lucy’s pregnant, during the arduous filming of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy, to make things worse. J.K. Simmons plays Williams Frawley and Nina Arianda plays Ball’s real life close friend, Vivian Vance. Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, LInda Lavin(!) and Ronny Cox(!) also star, and wrote the screenplay here, as well as directing. But there are too many stories told all at once, here, and Kidman just isn’t up to Ball’s high level of comedic genius, either. And it gets a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes. Tara Brady of the Irish Times writes “beneath the snappy dialogue, there’s little spark or insight. Kidman simultaneously evokes Rosalind Russell and Marie Curie as Ball.” Don’t bother. Better to watch Who You Think I Am, the 2019 comedy/drama. Juliette Binoche(!) stars as Claire Millaud, a 40-something professor and mother, who is at loose ends after her husband Gilles (Charles Berling) leaves her for a younger woman, and her romance with a younger man, Ludo, ends badly as well. So she decides to create a younger persona online, with Clara, a 24 year-old, but when she meets Alex(François Civil), Ludo’s ex-roommate, under her guise, she becomes obsessed, and loses interest in her real life, ignoring work and her children. Guillaume Gouix, Nicole Garcia, Jules Houplain and Claude Perron also star, while Safy Nebbou directed. And this film premiered at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, and won the Best Actress Award for Binoche at the 2019 Cabourg Romantic Film Festival. And it gets an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com called it “a Russian nesting doll of intentions, betrayals, and self-delusions that presents its story of deception in a manner that’s constantly surprising.” I’m definitely tuning in. And that’s it for the big movies on Amazon Prime, but don’t miss their special offer of premium channels like Starz, Showtime and AMC+ for only 99¢ for 2 months! It’s a great deal, especially if you remember to cancel before the two month limit. You can get those deals here.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!