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!
Okay, there are no big titles added this week on Hulu, but there are some less obvious adds that are worth a view, like The Year of the Everlasting Storm, the 2021 cinema anthology. This is an group of 7 pieces from directors around the world, each vignette with a different view on the Covid pandemic, and how it has impacted lives around the world. There is a drama by Jafar Panahi(Nasrin), about a couple who have a mother-in-law stop in for an unexpected and prolonged visit, completely covered and masked, and of course, offering advice and criticism along the way. Another story directed by Anthony Chen(Wet Season) tells of a small family trying to survive being cloistered at home without killing each other. One by Malik Vitthal tells of a father trying to regain custody of his kids, when Covid adds just one more difficulty, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s features only insects with psychedelic lights and poetry. But my favorite is that directed by David Lowery(The Green Knight), with an older woman finding old letters from 1926, when a flu epidemic hit New Orleans, and her cross country trip that follows. Dominga Sotomayor and Laura Poitras also tell good tales here. And this compilation was nominated for the Golden Eye Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, and gets an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Roxanna Hadadi of the L.A.Times wrote its “poignancy comes from its confirmation that even in tumultuous times, our senses of wonder, love and loyalty remain integral to the human experience.” I’m watching. Hulu also has The Cat and the Moon, a 2019 coming-of-age drama. Alex Wolff(Hereditary) stars as Nick, a young man who goes to live with an old friend and bandmate of his late father, Cal (Mike Epps),in New York City, while his mom is in rehab. Cal even signs Nick up for high school, where he quickly makes friends, and starts a wild life of partying. But it becomes apparent he has some baggage, with a hard life at home and the death of his father. Skyler Gisondo, Tommy Nelson, Stefania LaVie Owen, Giullian Gioiello, Olivia Boreham-Wing and Camrus Johnson also star, and Wolff actually debuted as a writer/director with this film. And it gets a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Robert Abele of TheWrap saying “Wolff isn’t punching above his weight as a nascent multi-hyphenate, having assembled a generally sensitive if sometimes meandering tale without too many moving parts.” It isn’t perfect, especially being a bit long, at 2 hours, but it’s insightful, too. And it’s on my list. Hulu has also added Pharma Bro, the 2021 doc about the notorious Martin Shkreli. This unusual documentary, directed by Brent Hodge, puts forth the claim that Shkreli, the 38-year-old financial entrepreneur and pharmaceutical tycoon named “the most hated man in America” by the press, isn’t as bad as he seems. With arguments like even though Shkreli raised the price of the drug Daraprim to exorbitant levels, when a patient notified him, he supplied him with a connection. That the securities fraud he was arrested for had nothing to do with the pharmaceutical price gouging. That Shkreli was too young to know better(?). Hodge even moved in to Shkreli’s apartment building and shared beers with him. But those are flimsy arguments for me, and highly distasteful to sit through, as well. So, even though Pharma Bro gets a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, I won’t be watching. Ben Kenigsberg of th3e New York Times wrote “Hodge is not always on Shkreli‘s side, but he appears convinced he’s made a well-rounded portrait, as opposed to a dubious, bottom-feeding, bro-to-bro testimonial.” I’d rather watch paint dry. And, finally, Hulu has the Creamerie, the 2021 dark comedy from New Zealand. This takes place in a near-future, post-apocalyptic world, where all the men died of a virus 8 years ago, leaving a world of women, led by Lane(Tandi Wright), an over-bearing leader who picks women to repopulate the world by lottery. Jaime (J.J. Fong), Alex (Ally Xue) and Pip (Perlina Lau) are dairy farmers who don’t buy Lane’s authority, and are constantly getting put in detention for it, but when Jaime is chosen to have a child, she is delighted, as she misses her late husband and son. But with being chosen, she enters a dark new world of disturbing treatments, and when the trio explore on their own, they find something even more shocking. Brynley Stent, Rachel House, Nikki Si’ulepa, Kimberley Crossman and Jay Ryan also star, and there are 6 episodes available to devour now. And this one is hard to categorize, as it’s a sci-fi thriller, as well as a comedy. But boy, is it funny and irreverent. And it gets a 6.8/10 on IMDb. Guy Somerset of the Newsroom(nz) calls it “a brilliant Kiwi mix of wit and menace…[that’s] so good, so original, that it demands your attention, awards and future series.” I’m definitely tuning in.
Netflix has surprisingly few big adds this week, but there are a few new titles worth mentioning, like Stay Close, the 2021 British mystery mini-series. Based on a 2012 Harlan Coben novel, this focuses on Megan, wonderfully played by Cush Jumbo(The Beast Must Die, The Good Wife), a mother of three in Britain, getting ready to marry the love of her life, Dave Shaw(Daniel Francis), when an old acquaintance, Lorraine, shows up in her life. Lorraine(Sarah Parish) who knows who she was 18 years ago; Cassie, a stripper in Atlantic City, whose life was marred by the violence of a now-dead stalker. Or is he dead? James Nesbitt and Jo Joyner play the two detectives investigating the murders that start cropping up around Megan, and Rod Hunt, Richard Armitage, Bethany Antonia and Eddie Izzard(!) also star, and there are 8 episodes available to stream now. And it gets an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Joel Keller of the Decider saying it “benefits from fine performances and a story that gives just enough clues in the first episode to keep viewers intrigued and – more importantly – not frustrated with purposely obtuse writing.” But it’s kind of tired material Netflix also has The Wasteland, a 2021 Spanish horror movie. Here, a mother, Lucía, played by Inma Cuesta, subsists with her husband, Salvador(Roberto Álamo) and her young son, Diego(Asier Flores), in a shack in the middle of nowhere, in the 19th century after undefined wars and conflict sent people from the cities and towns to isolation. But their house is heavily guarded by Salvador, and one night he tells his son of a beast that dwells in the night, feeding on peoples fears. But can the boy be their key to survival. Alejandra Howard and Víctor Benjumea are the only other cast members, and David Casademunt directed. But it’s not as horrifying as some may hope for, and so it gets only a 4.6/10 on IMDb. Jonathon Wilson of Ready Steady Cut says “there’s a case to be made that it’s perhaps too serious for its own good, but to be fair there isn’t much to smile about in its depiction of rural 19th-Century Spain, where homesteads dot a half-dead landscape like scabs on the Devil’s balding scalp.” The atmosphere and production here are great, with wonderful cinematography by Isaac Vila. You decide. Netflix also has The Girl From Oslo, a 2021 thriller series. This tell of the kidnapping of Pia(Andrea Berntzen), a 20-year-old Norwegian, and two friends, Noa and Nadav, while visiting the Sinai desert. But as ISIS is the culprit, and political tensions are high, not much hope is held for their release, so Pia’s mother Alexandra(Anneke von der Lippe) heads to Israel to find her daughter, with the help of Arik(Amos Tamam), a diplomat and friend of Alex‘s since the Oslo accords. But can they work together and navigate the complex system quickly enough, to save the teens. Shadi Mar’i, Daniel Litman, Anders T. Andersen, Rotem Abuhab, Jameel Khoury, Abhin Galeya, Anders T. Andersen and Red Abuhab also star and there are 10 episodes available to view now. But this is offensively biased against Arabs, with a simplistic (and erroneous) casting of Muslims as the “bad guys,” so I won’t be watching, even though it gets a 6.2/10 on IMDb. Luckily, Netflix also offers Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a 2019 teen horror movie. this is based on the novel by Alvin Schwartz, where three teens in 1968, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck(Austin Zajur), find a book of ghost stories in the old house they’re hiding from bullies in. But when Stella gets home, she finds a new horror story in the book, with one more appearing each night, featuring herself and her friends as characters, and perhaps, victims? Michael Garza ,Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows and Lorraine Toussaint(!) also star, and André Øvredal(Trollhunter) directed. And Guillermo del Toro(!) cowrote the screenplay for this piece, along with producing it. And it gets a respectable 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stephen Romei of The Australian called it “solid horror movie, thanks to its source material, its freakish monsters, its definite jump scares and good performances by Colletti and Garza.” But you know it’s too scary for me. And, finally, Netflix has Hand Rolled Cigarette, a 2020 neo-noir mystery from Hong Kong. Gordon Lam plays Kwan Chiu, once a soldier in the British Imperial Army, but now working for the Hong Kong triads( crime groups) as a go-between, when he is told to go after Mani(Bipin Karma), who stole drugs from the triad. Mani ends up hiding in Kwan’s apartment, so Kwan tells him to sell the drugs, and as the heat rises for both of them, a desperate effort to somehow survive and escape the city becomes their only aim. Ben Yuen, To Yin-gor, Singh Hartihan Bitto, Siu-Ho Chin, Aaron Chow and Pak-Him Chu also star, and Chan Kin Long directed. This was nominated for multiple awards in 2020, like Best Narrative Feature, Best Leading Actor and Best New Director at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Chan Kin Long won the White Mulberry Award at the Udine Far East Film Festival that year. And it gets a 6.7/10 on IMDb. Asian Movie Pulse called it “an impressive neo-noir crime drama. Chan Kin-long manages to direct a very human tale about camaraderie and loyalty, while also maintaining a sense of suspense and a very thoughtful visual approach to the urban setting of the feature.” I’m watching.
Amazon‘s huge add this week is The Tender Bar, a family drama directed by George Clooney. Based on J.R. Moehringer‘s memoir of the same name, this tells the story of 9 year-old J.R. Maguire(Daniel Ranieri))who goes with his mother, Dorothy (Lily Rabe), to live with his grandparents (Sondra James) and Christopher Lloyd!)in 1970’s Long Island, after his dead beat dad(Max Martini) leaves the pair broke. Tye Sheridan plays the older J.R., who lives in search of a father figure, and finds it in his uncle Charlie(Ben Affleck) a heavy drinking bartender, and then, of course, heads to law school and the harsh lessons leaned there. Brianna Middleton plays the well-off Sydney, his first love, and Rhenzy Feliz, Max Casella, Michael Braun, Shannon Collis and Ivan Leung also star, and Clooney produced this film as well as serving as director. But it gets a mere 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. I agree with Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com who says “to quote Yogi Berra, The Tender Bar is “déjà vu all over again.”” Don’t bother. But Amazon has also added Painter, a 2020 psychological drama. Betsy Randle plays Joanne here, a wealthy art collector who has found the new genius on the horizon, artist Aldis (Eric Ladin). In fact, she claims she “made” him, and, as facts come to light, it becomes clear she would do anything to clear his part, including murder. Casey Deidrick, Cinthya Carmona, Susan Anton(!), Patrick Gorman and Marnee Carpenter also star, while Cory Wexler Grant directed. And this film gets an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, with David-Elijah Nahmod of the Bay Area Reporter writing “Betsy Randle is positively chilling as Joanne…” And he’s right. It’s on my list. And, finally, Amazon has added Before I Go, a 2021 comedy/drama starring Annabella Sciorra(!). Here, Sciorra plays Samantha, a seriously depressed, but sardonic, musician in New York City, in a dead end job, feeling that the best of her life is over. While she contemplates ending it all, she takes care of her father, Robert Klein, after her mother’s death, and tries dating apps, where she meets some seriously irritating men, like Francis, wonderfully played by the late Willie Garson. Craig Bierko stars as another prospective date, and Andrea Navedo, Molly Griggs, Chris Perfetti, Amanda Huxtable and Jordan Carlos also star, while Eric Schaeffer directed. Sciorra was nominated for Best Actress at the 2020 WorldFest in Houston for her work here, and the film gets a 6.5/10 on IMDb. And Sciorra’s razor sharp wit makes the movie lighter and more fun than one would expect. Bianca Garner of In Their Own League says of Before I Go, “I didn’t realise how much I needed this film…. It’s been a real highlight of this year. Please do seek it out.” I’m tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!