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 exciting new adds this week, so let’s get started!
Hulu has some major adds this week, like Dropout, the 2022 drama series about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes. Amanda Seyfried stars as Holmes, here, in this series that charts her rapid ascendance, when she developed(kind of) a home machine that could run a battery of tests off a single drop of blood. And from that seed of an idea, Holmes dropped out of Stanford, and raised millions of dollars for an invention that didn’t quite pan out, with prototypes that crashed and burned. Laurie Metcalf(!) stars as Holmes‘ professor Phyllis Gardner, Naveen Andrews plays her boyfriend and eventual COO Sunny Balwani, and Sam Waterston(!), William H. Macy(!), Stephen Fry, Hart Bochner, Kurtwood Smith and Utkarsh Ambudkar also star, and this series is adapted by Elizabeth Meriwether from an ABC podcast. And there are 3 episodes to gorge on now, with 5 more to come, and a new one dropping every Friday. And it gets an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Melanie McFarland of Salon.com saying it “will be tough to top, or even match, because of the way Seyfried, along with Meriwether and her writers, marry the visible facets of Holmes‘ put-on with her skewed ethical paradigm.” And I agree, this is tightly written, thrilling material, even though we all know how it ends. I’m watching. But Hulu also has Fresh, the 2022 thriller. This follows Noa, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones(Normal People), a twenty-something, earnestly searching her dating apps for a good connection, willingly going out with a guy that insists she pay half, only to find he’s a toad who tells her how to dress and takes her leftovers home. So when she meets a charming guy, Steve(Sebastian Stan), at the grocery store, she may be a little too quickly enticed. And things seem fine on her first two dates, even though her more cynical best friend Mollie(Jojo T Gibbs) is skeptical, since Steve has no social media presence, not even on Instagram. But when Noa takes a road trip with her prince charming, she gets a heckuva shock from his outré lifestyle. Andrea Bang, Dayo Okeniyi, Charlotte Le Bon, Brett Dier and Alina Maris also star, while Mimi Cave directs. And this movie gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Tomris Laffly of RogerEbert.com writing “the irresistibility of Fresh lies in the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously — all things considered, the film manages to stay light on its feet with its Hostel meets Ex Machina concept.” It’s on my list. Hulu also offers the British crime thriller series Prey, from 2014. Rosie Cavaliero stars as Senior Investigating Officer Susan Reinhardt, who delves into the case of police detective Marcus Farrow(John Simm!) who is accused of killing his wife and two children, and on the run, while trying to clear his name. Reinhardt, haunted by her recent breakup, works overtime to not only catch Farrow, but to decode his strange behavior, and discover what’s really going on. Adrian Edmondson, Benedict Wong, Anastasia Hille, Craig Parkinson and Daniel Jillings also star, and there are 6 episodes available in all, 3 for Season 1 , and 3 for Season 2. And this series gets an amazing 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Kate Kulzick of the AV club called it “an engrossing, dynamic series, a testament to the sturdiness of the tropes it’s driven by as well as Lunt‘s ability to play with and execute ideas so many have others explored.” I’m watching. I love a mystery. And, finally, Hulu has added Benedetta, the 2021 French/Dutch drama. This tells the story of a real Italian nun, Benedetta, in the 17th century, played here by Virginie Efira, sold to the nunnery of Soeur Felicita, played by the great Charlotte Rampling. But Benedetta doesn’t fade into the background, ridden by visions of Jesus, which continued throughout her life, and eventually having an affair with one of the other nuns, Bartolomea (Daphné Patakia). And when the village is beset by catastrophic events like a comet-sighting, and finally, plague, Benedetta is targeted as the cause of all the ills. Lambert Wilson, Daphne Patakia, Olivier Rabourdin, Hervé Pierre and Louise Chevillotte also star, while the master Paul Verhoeven(Elle, Basic Instinct) directs. This was nominated for numerous awards last year, like the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and be named one of the Top Five Foreign Language Films by the National Board of Review, and one of the top 9 2021 movies by Buzzfeed, too. And it gets an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. But be forewarned, there is explicit sex in this movie, so not for the kiddos. But David Stratton of The Australian says “whatever your take on the film there’s no denying that it’s superbly directed and acted (Lambert Wilson as the Papal Nuncio is particularly impressive) and despite, or because of, the director’s obsessions, perversely enjoyable.” And I agree, I’m tuning in.
Netflix has a big add this week with Pieces of Her, a 2022 thriller series. Based on the novel by Karin Slaughter, opens with an chaotic scene at a diner, where Laura Oliver (Toni Collette!) and her daughter Andy (Bella Heathcote) are eating, interrupted by a gunman, seemingly intent on a mass shooting starts to open fire, only to be taken down by Laura, who neatly severs his jugular. But when Laura doesn’t want any of the ensuing attention in the press, in fact, wanting to send Andy into hiding, Her daughter becomes (naturally) suspicious, and starts to dig deeper into her mom’s past. Omari Hardwick, David Wenham, Jessica Barden, Jacob Scipio and Joe Dempsie also star, and there are 8 episodes available to enjoy now. But this is rather standard fare, with flimsy writing that doesn’t give great actors like Collette a lot to work with. And it gets a mere 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Brian Lowry of CNN.com calling it a “relatively modest (in this case, eight-episode) commitment. Pieces of Her proves reasonably compelling on that level and those terms, but as such series go, still feels as if it adds up to less than the sum of its parts.” I’d rather watch Midnight at the Pera Palace, a 2022 Turkish fantastical historical drama series . Here, Esra(Hazal Kaya), a journalist, gets a chance to spend the night at the Pera Palace hotel, an Istanbul landmark, for a story about it’s 130th anniversary. What she doesn’t expect is to wake up the next day in 1919, with negotiations for the Turkish War for Independence taking place, and a murder mystery to boot. Tansu Biçer stars as Ahmet, the hotel clerk who travels back in time to save the day, and Selahattin Pasali, James Chalmers, Yasemin Szawlowski, Ahmet Kursat Ocalan and Melih Salgir also star, and 8 episodes available for viewing now. And yes, it’s a little corny, but it’s also a lot of fun. So much so that it gets a 7.3/10 on IMDb, and Leah Donato of the Hollywood Insider says “you’ll be absolutely enthralled by all that it has to offer; especially the classic (and wonderful) cheesiness of a good old murder mystery.” I’m definitely tuning in. But Netflix also offers Lies and Deceit, a 2022 Spanish thriller series. This tells the story of Laura Munar(Ángela Cremonte), a lit. teacher, newly separated, who hesitantly agrees to go on a date with a charming surgeon, Xaviar(Javier Rey). But when she wakes the next morning, she believes herself the victim of date rape. But when she goes to report it to the police, her real ordeal begins , with disbelief the common reaction, even among her family, and Xavier harassing her, and telling a totally different story. Manuela Velasco, Paco Tous, Clara Segura, Miquel Fernaandez and Eva Llorach also star, and there are 6 episodes available to devour now. And if this story sounds familiar to you, yes, it’s based on the BBC’s Liar series, starring Joanne Froggatt. But this adaptation has lots of thrills and twists of it’s own, and it gets a 6.3/10 on IMDb. Johnny Loftus of The Decider says to stream it, adding “has plenty of secrets and twisty chances for vengeance to work with.” I’m watching. Also new on Netflix is Meskina, a 2021 Dutch romantic comedy. This focuses on the life of Leyla Idrissi, played by Maryam Hassouni, who seemingly had it all with her music producer husband, Abdelkarim(Olaf Ait Tami), until after four years, they become bored, and he starts seeing another woman. So Leyla moves back in with her mom, and her family begins to set her up with other men, seeing her as a “meskina” or a pity case. As her Moroccan aunts overwhelm her potential dates, chaos ensues, and Leyla doesn’t always make the best impression. Nasrdin Dchar, Soundos El Ahmadi,Sisi Bolantini, Vincent Banic, and Jouman Fattal also star, while Daria Bukvic directs. And though this isn’t perfect fare, and it gets only a 5.8/10 on IMDb, I love that it portrays the life and difficulties of a Morroccan Dutch, trying to assimilate and yet retain something of their heritage. And Pooja Sharma of Leisure Byte calls it “a light-hearted drama that delves into the world of Moroccan immigrants living in the Netherlands. It offers an exciting perspective on their struggle to assimilate and find their place in Dutch society, which may be sympathetic at times but lacks humour.” I’m tuning in. And, finally, Netflix has added The Weekend Away, a 2022 thriller. Here, London-based American Beth(Leighton Meester) arrives in Split, Croatia to meet up with her old friend Kate(Christina Wolfe) at a posh hotel, with Kate’s ex footing the bill. Kate goads Beth into a wild night, with strangers, to liven up their lives. But when Beth wakes the next morning, with not much memory of the previous night, only a brutal hangover, and no Kate to be found, she notifies the police. But a local Syrian-refugee taxi driver, Zain(Ziad Bakri) is of more help and the two investigate, finding Kate’s body. And, more disturbingly, Beth is a lead suspect. Amar Bukvic, Iva Mihalic, Luke Norris, Marko Braic, Lujo Kuncevic and Adrian Pezdirc also star, with Kim Farrant directing. And no perfect fare, inconsistent and sometimes incredible, but you get that beautiful Croatian scenery and intrigue as a trade-off. And it gets only a 5.5/10 on IMDb, but Adrian Horton of The Guardian writes “it’s a thriller by name but less edge-of-your-seat than lounging on the couch, absorbing beats of plot like the ocean tide. A little provocation with slight commitment – that’s not a bad night in by any means.” So it’s on my list.
Amazon has a couple of exciting adds this week, like Lucy & Desi, the 2022 documentary. Here, director Amy Poehler(!) gives us an intimate look at the couple behind the iconic tv comedy I Love Lucy, with interviews by duaghter like Lucy Arnaz Luckinbill, star of The Lucy Show, and tv and Broadway. And stars like Bette Midler, Carol Burnett and Norman Lear tell of the influence of the pair and their production company Desilu. But the most eye-opening of all their material is audio from tapes made by Ball and Arnaz, telling of their own tale. They tell of their meeting, the show’s difficult birth(no one wanted a Cuban, Ball says) and Ball holding forth on comedy(“you don’t have to be a funny person to get a laugh”). And this well-made, heartbreaking documentary is a welcome vindication after Sorkin‘s heavily fictionalized Being the Ricardos, correcting misconceptions like the supposed controversy over depicting Lucy‘s pregnancy in the show(there was no battle over it’s depiction). And Desi & Lucy gets an incredible 7.9/10 on IMDb, and Variety calls “Lucy and Desi is a captivating record of how they turned a sitcom into a national dream.” I’m watching. And if you love classic comedy, Amazon has also added the 1st season of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, from 1950! here, you’ll find the best of Burns and Allen, in earlier episodes you may never have seen with all the familiar characters like neighbors Blanche(Bee Benaderet!) and a different Harry Morton(Hal March), and other famous actors like Henry Jones, William Schallert, Lyle Talbot and Frank Wilcox. And of course, everyone trying to adapt to Gracie‘s zany interpretation of the world. There are 13 episodes to devour now, but you only have until March 31, when, you guessed it, it retreats back to the Best TV Ever premium channel, only to be seen for a 99¢/ month fee. And this series gets a stunning 8.6/10 on IMDb. And everyone could use a good laugh right now. And, finally, Amazon has added Season 1 of Don Matteo, a 2000 Italian mystery series from the MHZ channel. Terence Hill(Watch Out, We’re Mad) stars as Father Matteo, a priest in Gubbio, Perugia, who helps out investigating local crime, but also with understanding those involved, on both ends. Nino Frassica plays Marshal Nino Cecchini, the police investigator who takes advantage of Matteo’s insights, and together they investigate disappearances, drug rings and even the death of a little girl. Flavio Insinna, Simone Montedoro, Milena Miconi, Nathalie Guettà and Francesco Scali also star, and there are 16 episodes available for binging now, with the caveat, of course, that they all disappear to the MHZ channel, on April 1. And this series gets a 6.6/10 on IMDb, and the EuroTvPlace calls it “a terrific show.” And I love a mystery. I’m tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!