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New to Streaming: ‘The Childhood of a Leader,’ ‘Keanu,’ ‘A Touch of Zen,’ ‘Miles Ahead,’ and More

Written by on July 22, 2016 

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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 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.

April and the Extraordinary World (Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci)

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Most writing on Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci‘s April and the Extraordinary World speaks as though they’ve adapted one of revered Frenchman Jacques Tardi‘s graphic novels. This isn’t quite the case. What they’ve actually done is bring his unique “universe” to life with help from previous collaborator Benjamin Legrand (writer of Tardi’s Tueur de cafards) instead. Legrand and Ekinci crafted this alternate steampunk version of Paris as something inspired by the artist’s work rather than born from it. Tardi in turn helped by drawing original work later brought to life by Desmares’ animation team. The whole is therefore a culmination of its six-year production schedule populated by multiple creative minds working in tandem throughout. It may look familiar, but it’s very much brand new. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

A Touch of Zen (King Hu)

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“Visionary” barely begins to describe this masterpiece of Chinese cinema and martial arts moviemaking. A Touch of Zen (Xia nu) by King Hu depicts the journey of Yang, a fugitive noblewoman in disguise who seeks refuge in a remote, and allegedly haunted, village. The sanctuary she and her three companions find with a shy scholar is shattered when a nefarious swordsman uncovers her identity, pitting the five against legions of blade-wielding opponents. At once a wuxia film, the tale of a spiritual quest, and a study in human nature, A Touch of Zen is an unparalleled work in Hu’s formidable career and an epic of the highest order, characterized by breathtaking action choreography, stunning widescreen landscapes, and innovative editing. – Criterion

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet)

"The Childhood of a Leader"

The feature debut from young actor turned screenwriter-director Brady Corbet, The Childhood of a Leader is an ambitious choice for a first project — a period piece tying together the post-WWI political climate and the upbringing of a child in a chateau outside Paris. The film, premiering in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, is a huge psychological and tonal balancing act that could crumble at each turn, and yet never does. – Tommaso T. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Elvis & Nixon (Liza Johnson)

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It is the most requested image in the National Archives, likely because of the tantalizing possibility and cheerful incongruity it summons. Elvis ‘The King’ Presley and Richard ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon, two of the more confounding and eccentric figures of their respective time, standing there in the middle of the Oval Office shaking hands and looking mutually magnanimous. What had they discussed? How did these two men—singled out and scrutinized in differing ways by a public fascinated by them—approach one another? No official record of what went on during that meeting exists, but Liza Johnson’s enticing conjectural account of it is the centerpiece of Elvis & Nixon, a fascinatingly weird little movie that both teases and satisfies our pop curiosity. – Nathan B. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra)

Embrace of the Serpent

I have a weakness for heart-of-darkness films, and Embrace of the Serpent ranks amongst the best (and most gorgeous) I’ve seen. It’s also the only one I can think of that successfully adopts a native perspective in charting the white man’s journey down the river, thus offering a moving elegy to the myriad cultures that were destroyed in the process instead of just probing into humanity’s vilest instincts. – Giovanni M.C.

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

Keanu (Peter Atencio)

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The most important aspect of any comedy is whether or not it is funny. Like any movie in a specific and emotion-based genre (horror, romance, suspense, etc.) the main concern on an audience’s mind will be a simple one: does this film deliver the goods? A movie that markets itself as “bone-chilling” but winds up being laughable is a failure. So if a movie is marketed as a comedy, it has to deliver laughs. That’s the easily summed up majority of what matters. In the spirit of that simplicity, let me state simply: Keanu is uproariously funny — so much so that you might actually miss lines of dialogue due to the volume of laughter in the theater. This fever pitch of hilarity is sustained uniformly throughout the entire film despite many aspects of the plot dragging and dipping, making the movie feel slightly longer than it actually is. – Brian R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Miles Ahead (Don Cheadle)

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I don’t know why any film about someone as innovative, unstoppable, and crazy as Miles Davis leaves so little impression, but to begin addressing that question would require remembering many significant things from Miles Ahead. This slip-up grates for a few reasons. First and foremost is, indeed, the obvious disconnect between what fascination a man creates and how a feature about his life pulls us in, and this nagging sense of failure extends toward the knowledge that this work is a labor of love. More than the story of a significant figure, Miles Ahead is also the crowdfunded-to-make-sure-they-can-do-it-right feature debut of Don Cheadle, who, from the first second of being onscreen, makes clear that he’s putting a lot on the table. – Nick N. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)

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Ten years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, filmmaker Alain Resnais documented the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek in Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard), one of the first cinematic reflections on the Holocaust. Juxtaposing the stillness of the abandoned camps’ empty buildings with haunting wartime footage, Resnais investigates humanity’s capacity for violence, and presents the devastating suggestion that such horrors could occur again. – Criterion

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes

Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray)

Straight Outta Compton

With a relatively unknown cast and a director whose work is often hit-or-miss, it was a surprise that F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton is among the best films Hollywood has put out in quite some time. There are plenty of pictures that allow the audience to congratulate themselves on progressive viewpoints; fewer illustrate the formation of institutional racism at all, let alone with the nuance Gray does here. He examines the members of N.W.A. both as a unit — a group of Compton youth who made it out by broadcasting their story — and as individuals, each of whom exits or remains home in their unique ways. An ensemble of little-known actors, particularly Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as his father, Ice Cube — as well as sharp editing and impressive cinematography from Billy Fox and Matthew Libatique, respectively — make Straight Outta Compton one of the most electrifying films of the year, in addition to one of the smartest. – Forrest C.

Where to Stream: HBO Go

Sweet Bean (Naomi Kawase)

Sweet Bean

Festival programming is more often than not fraught with ulterior considerations. Which is why so much is being read into symbolic placements such as the opening film. In the case of Cannes, that applies not only to the competition, but also the sidebar sections, led by Un Certain Regard. Since it’s generally perceived as a “downgrade” when new works by popular auteurs previously invited to the competition are shown instead in UCR, the added prestige of opening the section is often seen as a compensatory gesture. This happened with Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola among others. This year, it also looked like An by Cannes mainstay Naomi Kawase is getting a pat on the back for being inferior to Still the Water, which just competed for the Palme d’Or last year. As it turns out, An is in many ways superior to the island-set existential drama and definitely a more enjoyable watch. It might just not be high-brow enough for a loftier slot in the lineup. – Zhuo-Ning Su (review)

Where to Stream: iTunes, Google

Also New to Streaming

Amazon

The Blackout Experiments
Muriel, or The Time of Return
Rio, I Love You (review)

MUBI

Sanchu Uprising: Voices at Dawn
SouthPussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
From the Other Side
Light of My Eyes
D’est
Trust

Netflix

Fighting
Me Him Her (review)

Discover more titles that are now available to stream.


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