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New to Streaming: ‘First Reformed,’ ‘RBG,’ ‘Her,’ Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cult Picks, and More

Written by on August 3, 2018 

first-reformed

With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit platforms. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

The Dark Knight and Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan)

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What can be said about The Dark Knight that hasn’t already been? To paraphrase The Joker, this movie changed things forever. Although 2005’s Batman Begins resurrected the series from its unfortunate Joel Schumacher era, it was The Dark Knight where Christopher Nolan began to explore the idea of doing a genre piece that just happens to feature Batman. What we get as a result is a masterfully-executed crime thriller, with wonderful performances, sharp writing, and a sense of grounded scale simply missing from films of its ilk. The fact that Heath Ledger so beautifully captured the essence of The Joker with his Oscar-winning performance, while remaining committed to the tone and the vision that Nolan was aiming for, is just one of the many reasons people will continue talking about The Dark Knight for years to come. – John U.

Where to Stream: Netflix

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

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Made with a kind of formal rigor that one would’ve assumed was long past Schrader after the “post-cinema” experimentations of The Canyons and Dog Eat DogFirst Reformed is first and foremost most admirable for its sustained mood. Shot in The Academy aspect ratio and maintaining a stillness and greyness that manages to seem utterly alien to the slow cinema standards of contemporary art films, one gets the sense of the director really having a genuine stake in the making of this picture. It seems the religious content is not so much an affect as a genuine late-in-life plea. – Ethan V. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Giant (Johannes Nyholm)

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In The Giant, what lives and breathes as a compelling documentary morphs quickly into a kind of mythological fantasy when it steps outside its mode of social realism. Credit must be given to first-time feature director Johannes Nyholm, his special effects team, and his lead Christian Andren for pulling off a miraculous technical feat with a narrative that almost never steps outside of its fantasy world — until it does. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: MUBI (free 30-day trial)

Her (Spike Jonze)

I expected a lot of things from Spike Jonze’s quirky tale of an emotionally vulnerable man dating his computer, but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how gently accurate it is when dealing with the reality of human relationships, both on small, personal levels and at larger social ones too. Without ever really stopping to explain exactly how this near future operates, or what the parameters of its technology actually are, we are dropped into Theodore’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life and made to feel the loneliness and vulnerability while expressing our own wonder at new wrinkles in this reality. Phoenix gives one of his finest and sure to be most underrated performances as a guy who is trying to recover from a broken heart while learning that he’s not nearly as connected to others as he expected. Awards or no, Scarlett Johansson is astonishing in what she accomplishes with only voice-work. Samantha, the operating system that nabs Theo’s heart, is an original and compelling creation and Jonze does her justice by structuring his film around the various evolving stages of her awareness. This is a brilliant and complex tale about the future of our technology, a spiritual exploration about what makes us tick as humans in the act of being. – Nathan B.

Where to Stream: Netflix

The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh)

The Informant

Although mostly defined by his serious role, Matt Damon’s delightful stint into deadpan comedy hits the mark perfectly. With the power of Steven Soderbergh behind the lens and Scott Z. Burns behind the script, The Informant! is whip-sharp and full of wonderful lines. Perhaps more important than its actual comedic moments — with internal monologues from Damon’s Whitacre that reminds myself of my own ADHD wanderings — is the fact that the central premise about a whistleblower taking down his own company without any clear sign of benefiting himself, initially, is so absurd and yet true. Why would someone damage their own standing in an industry without having been wronged or without a clear path of benefit ahead? In taking this wry, specific tone and approach, Soderbergh amusingly shows us. – Bill G

Where to Stream: Netflix

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cult Picks

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As he finishes up his Amazon crime series, Nicolas Winding Refn has launched byNWR, which highlights restored cult classics for free. We’ll let him explain: “Born from a passion for the rare, the forgotten and unknown, byNWR breathes new life into the culturally intriguing, influential and extreme.  Quarterly volumes of content divide into three monthly chapters, each featuring a fully-restored film. These cinematic revivals inspire a wealth of original content, drawn together by our special Guest Editors. As we evolve and expand, we will encourage exploration of a wide range of avenues by curators, writers and the engaged public, building a community of those who like to create, to watch, to read, look or listen. In a world of the instant, byNWR takes its time on a tangential line towards the undiscovered…where we share, enjoy, and look to the future–with hope, prosperity, and the idea that culture is for everyone.”

Where to Stream: byNWR

Night Comes On (Jordana Spiro)

When the parole board asks seventeen-year old Angel Lamere (Dominique Fishback) why she hasn’t seen her younger sister (Tatum Marilyn Hall’s Abby) in two years despite only being incarcerated for one, her reply was an honest yet simplistic, “I wasn’t a good influence.” The fact that she is where she is proves this statement to be the truth, but we’re soon to discover there’s more to it than a flimsy sense of altruism. The decision was conversely a selfish one: necessary, but selfish. Angel was the one who had to live with the memory of what their father (John Jelks) did to their mother (Nastashia Fuller). She’s the one who cannot forget what was taken from them and seeing Abby’s intact innocence unfortunately only made that burden worse. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes

Racer and the Jailbird (Michaël R. Roskam)

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If it can, should a film lay its foundation on intertextuality? The question being: can you believe two people are in love because you are told, not because you see it? Because you know it’s happened before, not because it’s happening now? If you answer yes, then Racer and the Jailbird will shake and move you, leading you seductively by the hand through a series of romances and heartbreaks. Michaël R. Roskam’s latest finds the familiar premise of a heist film, with truth as a currency in bankruptcy and hopes of a dream getaway dashed against the pillars of human nature fused with trauma dictating otherwise. So we have robber and racer, lovers in trouble. If your answer to the above question is no, Racer and the Jailbird will leave you battered but hollow. – Mike M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes

RBG (Betsy West and Julie Cohen)

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RBG is an essential documentary for the adoring fans of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg aka The Notorious RBG, according to some millennials. They have created an entire mythology out of a quiet, brilliant women who rose to the rank of the court’s chief dissenter post Bush v. Gore. Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West have crafted an engaging documentary to hold us over until she, like fellow pioneer of civil rights Thurgood Marshall, gets a biopic of her own later this year. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: iTunes, Google

Also New to Streaming

Amazon

Final Portrait
Kings

FilmStruck

Tootsie
The World, the Flesh and the Devil

HBO Go

Fargo
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

MUBI (free 30-day trial)

For the Plasma
Boundaries
Under the Sand
Water Drops on Burning Rocks
Meteors
Family Life

Netflix

The Aviator
Clerks
Constantine
Gran Torino
Million Dollar Baby

Discover more titles that are now available to stream.


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