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.
Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams)
Many parents aren’t going to allow their young children to watch Marvel Cinematic Universe films—they skew older with dark underlying themes and comic book violence that (sometimes) leave certain characters dead. So while Disney’s purchase of Marvel gave them boundless raw material to use in order to capture the attention of teens and everyone older, the question remained whether Mickey and friends could find something in the extensive catalog that would be suitable for their target audience. On the surface Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle‘s Big Hero 6 isn’t the obvious property considering its canon includes Silver Surfer, a giant robot named Baymax who looks like Street Fighter’s Blanka, and a bureaucratically run troupe of secret agent superheroes, but it’s crazy how perfect for children it is with a little fairy dust magic. – Jared M. (full review)
Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
An energetic and invigorating exploration of the traps of art and commerce, Birdman connects in a way that Iñárritu’s previous films did not. There’s a playfulness and a passion in the one-take gimmick that draws the fraying edges of Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thompson together, and a previously absent wisdom in the way the marvelous supporting cast is used to populate the vibrating world that surrounds Birdman‘s harried actor. Much has been said about Keaton, and while it’s exciting to watch him stir to life, the film is nothing if not the sum of its parts, one of which is Emma Stone’s best performance to date. A beguiling treat that only grows with additional viewings, Birdman soars. – Nathan B.
The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)
Rian Johnson‘s sophomore outing was one of the most criminally overlooked films of the year when it was released half-a-decade ago, but it’s since gained a following. Bursting with energy, as we jump from locations exotic as Johnson’s dialogue, there isn’t a dull moment in this well-crafted caper story. Now available to stream on Netflix, it should be required viewing before his Star Wars: Episode IX. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Dumb and Dumber To (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly)
Not even the movie that started it all can save the fledgling career of the Farrelly brothers. Despite reading an interview of them speaking about how great the sequel’s script was due to its being almost identical to the first, I entered their last film with an open mind. The same and more, they said? Come on—it’s been twenty years. They should have noticed by their diminishing box office returns this past decade that the comedy used to propel them towards A-list status in the ’90s wasn’t working anymore. We can only take so many fart jokes, manchilds, and offensive material before we begin to look elsewhere for something fresh. Dumb and Dumber was fresh in 1994, but now Dumb and Dumber To is just plain tired. – Jared M. (full review)
The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)
There is something odd about the way Hilary Swank moves in The Homesman, the second film directed by Tommy Lee Jones after The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Part of it is perhaps the actress is in period detail costumes, as the film takes place in the Nebraska territory in the mid-19th century, and may not be used to the clothes. But more than that, a lot of her gestures come off as artificial, as if the actress is mimicking the movements without actually becoming them. It’s essentially a metaphor for Jones’s approach to this hokey and disappointing Western, which will necessarily be compared to the work of Clint Eastwood. This odd tale of Women in the West includes many of the signifiers we’re used to, but lacks all the interior meaning that has defined the latter director’s work. – Peter L. (full review)
Horns (Alexandre Aja)
In a film festival climate which often seeks to grab attention through comparison — “it’s this year’s that,” or, just as often, “it’s this meets that” — we, ourselves, can play the comparison game: Horns aspires for Twin Peaks, but ends up as Twilight. It’s not simply a bizarre, supernatural tonal mishmash in the Pacific Northwest — though there is that — but, worse yet, a more-often-than-not strained collection of ugly misogyny and computer generated mumbo-jumbo. – Ethan V. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Joe (David Gordon Green)
While it often feels like a brother to Jeff Nichols‘ brilliant Mud, David Gordon Green‘s newest drama Joe even has the same young actor supporting his titular lead: Tye Sheridan, who either has the greatest agent in the world or, simply, possesses the kind of ingrained encyclopedic knowledge and love for the art form that someone like Paul Thomas Anderson had at the same young age. His résumé may not contain a whole lot of diversity, what with its three country boys growing up the subject of abuse — Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life rounding out that trio — but he knows emotional stoicism and unwavering moral centers in a way most adult actors can’t wrap their heads around. He embodies the hardworking boy-who-could-kick-your-butt image perfectly while, too, giving us a troubled soul in desperate need of our compassion and empathy. – Jared M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang)
A woman sits at the edge of a bed, brushing her hair while a young boy and girl are positioned to her side, sleeping soundly. The camera, stationary, can capture nothing but the shapes of three bodies, segments of a comforter, and a wall whose minimal qualities of design would give the stronger impression of a small film set than actual room. This sequence proceeds for a few minutes; no dialogue is spoken and none of these people are identified, yet one can understand, on an almost-instinctual level, that it’s a mother figure, either worn down by her children or sitting in blissful relaxation. Not that we need read too greatly into this bare situation: an explication of circumstance is not necessary, nor is the opportunity for an explication of circumstance necessarily provided. Taken both in its entirety and viewed within proper context, the image is as much a proposition as an introduction, demanding our acclimation to a peculiar tenor of temporal cinematic geography — no room for personal compromise included. – Nick N. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Voices (Marjane Satrapi)
Struggling to find his place in Hollywood after a string of failures, Ryan Reynolds has turned to a handful of independent features in some attempt to regain footing — and first out of the gate brings his most impressive, substantial performance yet, in Marjane Satrapi‘s profoundly dark comedy The Voices. The initial set-up sounds like it could be the next wacky Disney feature, with Reynolds playing Jerry, a happy-go-lucky employee at a bathtub manufacturer who literally sees butterflies next to Fiona (Gemma Arterton), the co-worker he’s pining over. This heightened reality is taken to another level when he comes home: his dog, Bosco, and his cat, Mr. Whiskers, talk to him, acting as a kind of shoulder angel and devil, respectively. – Jordan R. (full review)
Also New to Streaming
What are you streaming this weekend?