Yes, it’s that time again, the weekend, and time to review the best new movies and television shows added online this week(and last week), to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. And there are some exciting new adds this week, so let’s get started.
Hulu has few good adds this week, but there is one late one, in Benediction, the 2021 historical drama. This tells the story of the famed WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon, played by Jack Lowden, who paid a huge price for his ethical opposition to the war. Sassoon fought early in the Great War, but when he was injured and then expected to return, he refused, issuing an anti-war statement, that accused some at the top of not ending it as early as they could have(a common accusation about WWI). Expecting to be court-martialed, he is instead sent before a medical board, and diagnosed as a psychological disorder that made him a pacifist(!). Sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland, the young man meets a psychiatrist he can actually confide in, telling him of his homosexuality. And though his romances with men go on, homosexuality, too, is unacceptable in his time, so he marries and has children, with Peter Capaldi playing the older, more wizened Sassoon. Kate Phillips, Gemma Jones, Matthew Tennyson, Simon Russell Beale and Ben Daniels also star, while Terence Davies(!) directed(The Deep Blue Sea). And Benediction was nominated for numerous awards in 2022, and went on to win Best Actor for Lowden, Best Cinematography for Nicola Daley, and Best Original Screenplay for Davies at the International Cinephile Society Awards, along with others. And it gets a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Adam Nayman of The Ringer saying “Davies’s careful craftsmanship and keen sense of melancholy (as opposed to melodrama) keeps the film subtle, but not benign; its portrait of the artist as a broken man gets under your skin.” I’m tuning in. But Hulu also has Revenge of Others, a 2022 South Korean YA thriller series. Shin Ye-Eun plays Ok Chan-Mi, here, a 19 year-old high school student and adoring twin sister of Ok Chan-kyu, played by Kang Yeol, who is left in utter disbelief when her seemingly happy brother suddenly falls to his death. When it is deemed suicide, she heads to his high school Yongtan High, to find his killer. when she meets Ji Soo-heon(Lomon), she thinks she has found an ally, a ‘hero’ who fights the bullies at school, but soon she learns that he may not be as perfect as he seems. Seo Ji-Hoon, Chae Sang-Woo, Lee Soo-Min, Chung Su-Bin and Kim Joo-Ryung also star, and there are 6 episodes available for bingeing now. And this series gets an incredible 9.3/10 on IMDb. Lauren Webb of Nme calls it an “intriguing teen thriller [that] threatens to overwhelm.” It’s on my list. Hulu also has added Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story, a 2019 thriller. A lifetime movie I might not mention otherwise, this stars Christina Ricci(!) as Nellie Bly(!), the heroic female reporter of the 1880‘s who pulled stunts like traveling around the world in 72 days, who here infiltrates the New York’s Women’s Lunatic Asylum to report on it’s horrific conditions. But in this fictionalized tale, Bly poses as Nellie Brown, a young woman suffering from amnesia, and is hospitalized with sex workers, people suffering dementia and even foreigners who simply don’t know English, chained and brutalized for their perceived sins. Her chief abuser is Matron Grady, played by Judith Light(!), who dogs her internees every step, with only the handsome psychiatrist Dr. Josiah (Josh Bowman) to come to her rescue… or is he. Anja Savcic, Nikki Duval, Lauren Cochrane and Steve Pacaud also star, and Karen Moncrieff directs. But this movie is more romantic schlock than history, and so the performers are the only real reason to watch. Still, it was nominated for several awards in 2020, and went on to win the Outstanding Made for Television Movies Award at the Women’s Image Network Awards that year. And it gets a 6.4/10 on IMDb, and Robyn Bahr of the Hollywood Reporter said “this movie isn’t nearly as delicate as that series[Alias Grace], but it’s a good ride if you want a wild little intermezzo in between your staid winter programming. Ya know, it’s true-ish enough.” I’d rather watch Alias Grace on Netflix. And, finally, Hulu has Warm Bodies, a 2013 romantic horror/comedy. This takes place in a post-apocalyptic L.A., where zombies reign along with ‘bonies’ that have a more vicious need for flesh, and where R, played by Nicholas Hoult, lives a lonely existence, with little memory and few friends. Until he meets Julie, played by Teresa Palmer, whom he saves from his zombiefriends, and takes home. As he teaches her to survive and pretend to be zombie, the pair form a bond that will be hard to maintain, given the prejudice of people like Julie’s militaristic father, played by John Malkovich(!). Rob Corddry, James Franco, Lio Tipton, Cory Hardrict and Vincent Leclerc also star, and Jonathan Levine(50/50) directed, along with writing the script here. And this movie gets an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Geoffrey Macnab of the Independent(UK) called it “an ingenious hybrid that, at its best, manages to be funny, lyrical and gruesome.” I’m definitely tuning in.
Netflix has a major add with the addition of Where the Crawdads Sing, the 2022 mystery. Based on the hit novel of the same name by Delia Owens, this tells of the ‘marsh girl’ Kya, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones, abandoned in the marshlands of North Carolina in the 60′s as a child, left to raise herself(!). When she finally makes her way into nearby Barkley Cove, after meeting a shrimper’s son, Tate(Taylor John Smith). She meets former quarterback Chase Andrews(Harris Dickinson), with whom she begins an abusive romance. So when one of the men is found dead, Kya is immediately suspected. Michael Hyatt,Garret Dillahunt, Jojo Regina, Ahna O’Reilly, Sterling Macer Jr. and David Strathairn(!) also star, while Olivia Newman directs. But this movie struggles with believability, with Kya looking merely mussed after years of struggling in solitude and poverty on the marshes, and the timeline is confusingly jumbled. And so it gets only 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Jenny Nulf of the Austin Chronicle wiritng “Edgar-Jones’ easygoing allure isn’t enough to bind Where the Crawdads Sing together, though, leaving the film a generic, dull outing.” I’m not watching. Luckily, Netflix also offers Monica, O My Darling, a 2022 Indian comedy. Here, Jayant Ardhekar, played by Rajkummar Rao, a young and ambitious engineer working in robotics, meets the beautiful Monica, played by Huma Qureshi, and falls instantly into her arms, despite his engagement to his bosses daughter, Nikki Adhikari(Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor). But when Monica claims she’s pregnant and wants marriage not money, and other efforts at blackmail arise, Jayant begins to dream of murder, and villainous ways to solve his problems. Zayn Marie Khan, Sikander Kher, Bagavathi Perumal, Sukant Goel and Radhika Madan also star, and Vasan Bala directs. And this movie gets an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Sukanya Verma of Rediff.com writing “high on offhanded humour and nasty surprises, Monica, O My Darling evokes Sriram Raghavan and Coen Brothers.” I’m definitely tuning in. But Netflix also offers Is That Black Enough for You?!?, a 2022 Netflix original documentary. Here, film historian, critic and Director Elvis Mitchell considers the immense impact of black cinema of the 60‘s and 70′s on the otherwise starkly white palette of mainstream movies. We not only get amazing clips from some of the best movies of that era, like In the Heat of the Night, Buck and the Preacher and Shaft, but we get actual interviews with great stars like Billy Dee Williams, Harry Belafonte and Ossie Davis(!). And we also get talking heads like Whoopi Goldberg(!), Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne and Zendaya, who tell of the huge impression these movies made on their lives, with Mitchell offering a nuanced essay on what the whiteness of film did to all of us. And this doc, with executive producers Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher, gets a stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ricky Valero of Ready Steady Cut says “you show up to understand the history of Black cinema, but stay for the stories told by the men and women who lived it—a brilliant can’t-miss documentary.” I agree, and I’m watching, twice. Netflix has also added Triviaverse, a 2022 interactive trivia experience. Here, you get a series of trivia questions, available for 1 player or 2, with the three rounds of questions getting gradually harder as your 3 minutes progress, and subjects like nature, science, music, history and pop culture covered. With special effects and Stranger Things-like music, it is best played on your computer or phone, at least for me, as you have an on-screen toggle switch to answer with. But this is super fun and addictive for trivia freaks like me, and great training if you’re getting ready for the Jeopardy Anytime Test. And it gets a 6.2/10 on IMDb, and Jay Peters of the Verge writes “if you’re looking for a good trivia game to play over the holidays, Triviaverse might have you covered.” And I’m hooked. So I’m playing. And, finally, Netflix has added Knuckle City, a 2019 crime drama from South Africa. This tells the tale of Dudu Nyakama, played by Bongile Mantsai, an aging boxer, raised by a toxic male father Art Nyakama(Zolosa Xaluva), and enmeshed in a world of violence. He needs another fight to save his sick mother, but has no takers. But as Dudu’s brother, Duke (Thembikile Komani) gets out of prison, and returns to their hometown of Mdantsane and his brother’s life, and his criminal ways, it becomes clear that more trouble is on the way. And meanwhile, Dudu‘s eldest daughter Nosisi (Awethu Hleli) who raises her half-brothers and sisters, merely tries to survive in a culture steeped in misogyny. Faniswa Yisa, Angela Sithole, Nomhle Nkonyeni, Patrick Ndlovu and Owen Sejake also star, and Jahmil X.T. Qubeka directed, along with writing this script about his old neighborhood. And it gets an outstanding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Kelsey Adams of NOW Toronto said “Qubeka‘s take on the boxing movie is a visceral descent into chaos, spurred by toxic masculinity and how it breaks the body and mind.”
Amazon has a huge add this week with The English, a 2022 Western series. Emily Blunt(!) plays Lady Cornelia Locke, here, an Englishwoman who we find in Kansas, trying to avenge the death of her son, when her own life is threatened by Mr. Watts(Ciarán Hinds). Fortunately, Eli Whipp, played by Chaske Spencer, a Pawnee veteran of the U.S. cavalry whose homeland has been stolen, is also being threatened by Watts, and so after the two mutually save each other’s lives, the pair team up to serve both of their ends. But as their bond grows, the racist resentment of others grows.Nichola McAuliffe, Toby Jones, Stephen Rea, Valerie Pachner, Rafe Spall and William Belleau also star, and there are 6 episodes available now. And this gory series, which has been compared to Quentin Tarentino, gets an amazing 8.1/10 on IMDb, and Lucy Mangan of The Guardian calls it “a rare, sensational masterpiece.” It’s on my list. But Amazon has also added Mammals, a 2022 (dark) comedy series starring James Corden(!). Here, Corden plays Jamie Buckingham, happily married, at the beginning anyway, to Amandine (Melia Kreiling), expecting their second child. But, when Amandine miscarries, Jamie discovers she’s been having an affair, things begin to fall apart. Sally Hawkins stars as Jamie‘s fanciful sister Lue, who actively dreams of being Coco Chanel’s assistant in 1920’s Paris, which offers respite from the otherwise dreary plot. Colin Morgan, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Samuel Anderson, Naoko Mori, Isla Gie and Tom Jones(!) also star, and this is 6-part series is written by star playwright Jez Butterworth. But whether due to Corden‘s bad publicity right now, or the fact that his character is not totally sympathetic, this series gets an astoundingly low 3.9/10 on IMDb. And Lucy Mangan of The Guardian says “Corden is a loutish manbaby in this lame, risible drama.” So I probably won’t watch. And, finally, Amazon has added Totems, a 2020 French thriller series. This takes place in 1965, in the middle of the Cold War, with French scientist, Francis Mareuil, played by Niels Schneider, beginning to work as a spy for the French Secret Service, in an effort to keep the U.S.S.R. from getting too much nuclear sophistication. In that work, he meets Lyudmila Goloubeva, played by Vera Kolesnikova, a pianist forced to work for the KGB. Though Mareuil is married, the spies fall in love, but neither can be sure of the sincerity of the other. And as things escalate, with murders taking place before the scientist’s eyes, nothing, even life, seems certain. José Garcia, Daniela Hirsh, Lambert Wilson, Jules Dhios Francisco and Ana Girardot also star, and there are 8 riveting episodes available to enjoy now. And this series gets a stupdendous 7.3/10 on IMDb, and Pramit Chatterjee of High on Films writes “Schneider and Kolesnikova’s chemistry is truly electric….[and] it functions perfectly as a Cold War-era thriller. But there’s a fair chance that its romantic plot is going to have more of an impact on its audience.” I’m tuning in.
So sit back and binge this weekend, on classics, old and new, on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!