Each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit streaming platforms in the United States. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Aftersun (Charlotte Wells)
One of the year’s most resonant films, Aftersun looks at the scratchy dynamics between a father and daughter while on vacation. It’s about memory, the finite nature of the relationships in our lives, and the difficulties of a parent’s diminishing mental health. Charlotte Wells knows where to put the camera in her debut—undeterred from taking risks, from placing her characters outside of the frame, from looking at shadows instead of the people themselves. Aftersun is a rare, tremendous first film, full of heart and focused melancholy; it breaks you down and fills you up simultaneously. The consistent inclusion of camcorder footage, and the fact that it enhances the story rather than becoming a distraction, further proclaims Wells as a director with immense talent and overflowing care. – Michael F.
Where to Stream: VOD
Four Nights of a Dreamer (Robert Bresson)
A cornerstone of Robert Bresson’s later career, this adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “White Nights” depicts young love in Paris as only the master could. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Jonathan Rosenbaum doing extra work.
Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Rian Johnson)
There was really only one way for Rian Johnson to proceed with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. The sequel to his 2019 whodunnit smash that introduced the esteemed Southern-fried detective Benoit Blanc had to be bigger in every way. There is indeed a larger canvas, as the film is set mainly on a private island in Greece. There is a more expansive mystery, featuring a diverse group of “disruptors”—or, as one character describes them, “shitheads”—with shared connections. There are multiple big-name cameos, one of them a cultural icon who passed away some months ago. And then, of course, there is the budget. Since the release of Knives Out, Johnson jumped to Netflix for a large payday. – Chris S. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Inspection (Elegance Bratton)
Positioned as a work of autobiography from first-time director Elegance Bratton, The Inspection is a flawed, if highly compelling promise of a new talented dramatist in American cinema. Bratton’s avatar in this case being Ellis French (Jeremy Pope), who we catch up with during his period as a homeless youth. Deserted by his unforgiving (yet of course Christian) cop mother Inez (Gabrielle Union) for being gay, he lives on the margins of society until making the last-ditch effort for redemption—or as he says, the chance to “die a hero”—by joining the Marines. – Ethan V. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Short Story (Bi Gan)
With his astounding debut Kaili Blues (2015) and the equally impressive 3D odyssey Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018), Chinese director Bi Gan emerged as one of the most promising new voices in cinema this last decade. While we await his third feature, his brand-new short, the playful, inventive, feline-centered A Short Story, is now on MUBI alongside his aforementioned second feature. Dive in, and get transported to new worlds.
Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001 to, sadly, so little enthusiasm outside the highbrow crowd that it didn’t finally land in North American theaters until three years later. Initially mystifying even to fans of Hou for being so “minor” after a number of historical dramas, it’s had a second act—seemingly earning the mantle of the director’s most popular film, at least judging by Letterboxd-logging stats. It’s curious to reflect on the reason for its elevated reputation, yet easy to recognize why it’s a particular favorite to aging millennials who serve as our chief tastemakers. And now on the occasion of a new 4K restoration, the film has the chance to be experienced theatrically for the first time by many of its biggest admirers, where its hypnotic rhythms and neon world can be better appreciated than on a ruddy specialty label DVD from the mid-2000s. – Ethan V. (full feature)
Where to Stream: Metrograph at Home
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Albert Lewin)
An intoxicating Technicolor fever dream of a film, Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a grand romance led by a stunning Ava Gardner. Supported by James Mason, the film tells the story of a femme fatale of sorts whom men will literally give their lives for, but the love is unreciprocated. With some of Jack Cardiff’s finest work, the Scorsese favorite might be the best film that Powell & Pressburger didn’t make.
Sharp Stick (Lena Dunham)
Lena Dunham’s Sharp Stick, her first feature since 2010’s Tiny Furniture, finds the writer-director again taking big swings with mixed results. Set in Los Angeles, as Dunham herself moved to the West Coast in 2020, the sex-filled comedy / drama follows Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), a 26-year-old virgin who begins an affair with Josh (Jon Bernthal), hunky father of the child she cares for. Once she starts having sex she cannot stop, determined to cross every carnal act and scenario off her construction-paper bucket list. – Michael F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Three Minutes – Lengthening (Bianca Stigte)
What can we glean from three minutes of film shot in 1938? This is the question driving Three Minutes — A Lengthening, an engaging essay film from director Bianca Stigter. Over a decade ago Glenn Kurtz recovered a 16mm film reel hiding in his parent’s house. It was footage his grandfather David Kurtz shot while on a European vacation in 1938. These three minutes photograph the mostly Jewish town of Nasielsk, Poland. By 1939, the Nazi occupation and their Holocaust would leave less than 100 surviving Jewish townspeople. In these brief, captured moments we see a flurry of faces. Who were these people? What lives did they lead? – Dan M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Top Gun: Maverick (Joseph Kosinski)
“He’s the fastest man alive.” Such is the kind of open self-awareness that is tastefully deployed throughout Top Gun: Maverick. Despite being the latest in a line of legacy sequels eager to capitalize on pandering nostalgia, Tom Cruise’s decades-in-waiting return to what made him a superstar only occasionally resorts to such bait. Thankfully, Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski are of a mind to make a film that ultimately exists on its own. Forced to contend with the pall of Reagan-era propaganda over the first Top Gun, this sequel has the gumption to take the original to task, while actively engaging with everything we know about its star. The film’s opening moments mirror that of its predecessor almost exactly. From the opening supers, to the music to the Tony Scott sunscapes, it’s just enough of a signal to let fans know they’re in a relatively safe space. But the fan service flourishes are dispensed up front, leaving plenty of runway to let the whole thing rip. Whether or not one is a fan of the first film, it can’t be overstated how impressive almost every creative decision in Maverick is. The action is practical, the propaganda is muted, and the cocksure hero has decidedly aged. – Conor O. (full review)
Where to Stream: Paramount+
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