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New to Streaming: ‘Mistaken For Strangers,’ ‘The Past,’ ‘The Grandmaster,’ ‘Mr. Nobody’ & More

Written by on March 28, 2014 

With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we believe it’s our duty to highlight the recent, recommended titles that have recently hit the interwebs. 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 Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below, and shoot over suggestions to @TheFilmStage

August: Osage County (John Wells)

Performances aside, August: Osage County mostly directs itself. In adapting his own Pulitzer-Prize winning play, Tracy Letts has made a compressed-but-extremely faithful rendition, and his words — along with unrestrained performances from the likes of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts among others — are what lend this film its power. John Wells, who made his directorial debut with 2010’s The Company Men after decades of work in television, is largely voiceless, allowing the film to play out in conventional editing patterns and infrequent, dialogue-driven exterior shots that attempt to break the film out of its theatrical foundations. In short, this is August: Osage County for those who don’t have a chance to see it on the stage. – Forrest C. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Big Sur (Michael Polish)

I’ve never read a novel by Jack Kerouac—the only Beat Generation tome I have leafed through is William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch—but I imagine the experience is similar to that of watching director Michael Polish’s adaption of the author’s 1962 work, Big Sur. The film is a literal stream of consciousness depiction of the legend’s own word, eight-five percent driven by voiceover narration assumedly being read directly out of the book. This is all backed by a sprawling Explosions in the Sky-lite score from The National and gorgeously composed images of the On the Road scribe’s (non)fictional band of bohemian hedonists and the California environment they inhabit. An ingenious way to bring the story to life, such an experimental visual form’s potential to captivate might leave something to be desired. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Foxfire (Laurent Cantet)

The 1950s and 60s churned out plenty of exploitative pulp films portraying the rise of the then-emerging teenage scurge in America. Female juvenile delinquents and criminal girl gangs were often the subjects, resulting in titillating titles like Kitten with a WhipGirls on the LooseReform School Girl, and many more. While these movies were originally intended as cautionary tales, they now stand as telling reactions to the rise of feminism. Many decades later, director Laurent Cantet (The Class) will see his award-winning drama Foxfire quietly released on VOD today. Adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’s bestseller, the TIFF selection, follows a gang of rebellious girls who wreck havoc on their small New York town. – Amanda W.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai)

As The Grandmaster wheels into its third act and the star-crossed male & female of a decades-old unrequited love begin their final exchanges, Wong Kar-wai makes a quick cut through established rhythm, almost directly propelling us into a 20-minute flashback that comes to occupy the entire center of his film’s concluding section. This lengthy structural and narrative digression is not occupied by Tony Leung‘s Yip Man, our ostensible lead, but Zhang Ziyi‘s Gong Er, a player whose prior integration into the work, while not at all insubstantial, provided nary a suggestion of anything with this size and relative scope: it’s not only much of a personal history being filled in with a quick clip, but that it would, too, contain the most technically elaborate and visually sumptuous confrontation this film has in its entire register. For as lugubrious as it may sound and, to some extent, be, the spell cast over these scenes remains ravishing from start to stop, and so clearly the work of a master that its odd implication in all which precedes and what little follows is of ultimately minor concern. – Nick N. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Hide Your Smiling Faces (Daniel Patrick Carbone)

Immediately after watching the Tribeca Film selection Hide Your Smiling Faces, I happened upon an article that, coincidentally, related closely to the film. Written by author Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic, “The Overprotected Kid” focuses on The Land, a makeshift, minimally supervised playground where children are free to experience and overcome fear, a need that has become suppressed by so-called helicopter parenting and society’s obsession with safety. While focusing on The Land – which is also the subject of a crowd-funded documentary – Rosin cites experts who stress the detriment of sheltering children from a world that, as one source puts it, is “full of risks,” and that adults are mistaken by the idea children are “too fragile or unintelligent to assess the risk of any given situation.” In effect, this leaves kids unequipped to figure things out on their own. For me, the piece unintentionally framed filmmaker Daniel Patrick Carbone‘s picturesque coming-of-age story, which depicts how a sudden tragedy shapes two children. – Amanda W. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson)

“You’re a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I’m quite fond of you. But you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world after all.” When wise but grumpy Gandalf the Grey speaks those words to the titular Hobbit at the end of Tolkien’s story, he means them as a kind-hearted, kidding admonishment. In The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugPeter Jackson’s second, rambling installment of Tolkien’s gentle, slender novel, the statement proves surprisingly literal; stuffed none too comfortably into the sidelines of his own adventure, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo plays second fiddle to Thorin, the dwarves, Gandalf, even Legolas and his Elven lady friend Tauriel. If the first film was a shambling, oddly paced introduction to Bilbo’s efforts to help his dwarven companions return to Erebor, Desolation nearly leaves this “little fellow” behind altogether, spinning a tale of Middle Earth evolving to the state we find it at the opening of Fellowship of the Rings. – Nathan B. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Jobs (Joshua Michael Stern)

Jobs is the kind of biopic that I arrive at with baggage; while I did not personally know Steve Jobs, I’ve been a follower of his life, from his famous product keynotes at Apple to Walter Issacson’s excellent biography. Joshua Michael Stern‘s biopic is not terribly insightful, but it’s a film that knows what it is, just a notch above an original cable movie. The script, by Matt Whitele, brushes over some key biographical moments and along with its lead – Ashton Kutcher as Jobs — it lacks the pretensions of a studio prestige film. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Mistaken For Strangers (Tom Berninger)

Emerging as one of indie rock’s most acclaimed acts in recent years, the Brooklyn-based band The National were the subject of a 2008 documentary titled A Skin, A Night. Directed byVincent Moon, the hour-long film took an aesthetically stark look at the formation of the previous year’s album Boxer. Two records and a great deal of success later, the band is now the subject of another documentary and one that couldn’t be any more different. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

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