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.

Ambulance (Michael Bay)

The Marvel machine may be the most fortuitous development for Michael Bay. Though the director hasn’t dabbled in the world of superheroes—despite a fondness for a cinematic universe of the robot variety—the homogenized, green-screen wasteland of today’s box-office behemoths has indirectly led to a reappreciation of the director’s schoolboy giddiness for practical effects and continually upping the ante for where he can place a camera. As bombastic and occasionally mind-numbing as his approach may be, there’s distinct poetry to the momentum of a maximalist vision where previs filmmaking vis-a-vis a committee is not only missing from his vocabulary, but a kinetic approach makes such a proposition nigh impossible. With Ambulance, a streamlined spectacle that borrows liberally from HeatSpeed, and John Q, Bay seems to be at his most comfortable and invigorated in years, milking the ridiculously heightened premise for all its worth while maintaining grounded stakes despite a few bumps along the road. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Prime Video

Blonde (Andrew Dominik)

How much dramatic license is excessive? Do artists have a responsibility to create positive representations around public figures, especially if they’re beloved and inspire reams of adulation and pity from admirers? Andrew Dominik, with his long, long-awaited adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel Blonde—a free biography of the life of Marilyn Monroe—maybe simply doesn’t care about these questions. Yet he undoubtedly cares about the real life––and especially the fragile inner world––of his subject, famously born Norma Jeane Desmond. But in his unforgiving portrait of her travails and lacks in this world he bravely gambles on (and will potentially lose) the majority of his audience’s good faith by focusing so heavily on the pain and affliction she endured. – David K. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Bodies Bodies Bodies (Halina Reijn)

Nine years into its existence, A24—the once-indie production and distribution label behind modern greats like Under the Skin (2013), Moonlight (2016), and Uncut Gems (2019)—is starting to become a parody of itself. If Alex Garland’s Men most exemplified this argument in regards to their cerebral thrillers, Halina Reijn’s Bodies Bodies Bodies marks indictment in the horror-comedy realm. The thing about parodies, though: they can be funny. In the case of the self-serious Men, that’s not a good thing. But with Bodies Bodies Bodies there’s room to laugh, a sense of self-awareness that doesn’t overcome the parody but offers respite from its grasp. – Luke H. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Bullet Train (David Leitch)

For a film filled with piles of dead bodies, generational family trauma, and a general bad-luck vibe, David Leitch’s Bullet Train lacks any sense of authenticity. Leitch and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz adapt a Japanese novel into a supposed thrill-ride, high-speed chase through train cars brimming with famous actors waiting to make short and ineffectual cameos. Starring Brad Pitt as Ladybug, a too-tired, zen-focused assassin, the action flick beats its audience over the head with constant gags, humor that will likely appeal to those under the age of 18, and slapstick jokes with no meaning behind them. – Michael F. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

A Chiara (Jonas Carpignano)

Writer-director Jonas Carpignano completes his Calabrian trilogy with A Chiara, an enthralling drama about a teenage girl coming to terms with her family’s role in the mafia, which won the Europa Cinema Label at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. With a documentary-like authenticity, this is a touching, powerful film with a lyrical visual palette and a superb sense of time and place. As in Mediterranea and A Ciambra, which told stories about immigration and the Roma community, respectively, Carpignano takes us to Gioia Tauro at the southern tip of the Italian mainland. For ten years the director has embedded himself here, a place infamous for the penetration in all walks of life of the ‘Ndrangheta, the secretive mafia clan that by some accounts controls three percent of Italy’s GDP. – Ed F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Hulu

Dead for a Dollar (Walter Hill)

What room is left for an honest gunslinger in a world where their tropes are repackaged ad infinitum? Have meticulous imitators like Red Dead Redemption actually killed their makers? These are the half-truths that Walter Hill must contend with in Dead for a Dollar—as he must with shadows of past glories and, frankly, his film’s aesthetic limitations. Hill rounds up an Aish-list cast for a setup reminiscent of many modern Westerns, but with a few well-worn contemporary revisions thrown into the mix. “It’s an attempt,” Hill recently explained, “to deal with the modern issues of race and gender that we still struggle with today.” Well, no shame in trying. – Rory O. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Después también (Carla Simon)

Before Alcarràs screens at the New York Film Festival, Le Cinéma Club are showing director Carla Simón’s short Después también. Building on semi-autobiographical fragments and themes from her debut narrative feature Summer 1993Después también finds a young man on the threshold between carefree youth and a profound burden of responsibility.

Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club

Dinner in America (Adam Rehmeier)

Born from a decision to combine two aughts-era sketches that weren’t quite working on their own, filmed in 2018 (stewarded with the help of Danny Leiner, who passed during production), and debuted in 2020 at Sundance, writer-director Adam Rehmeier would be forgiven for just being happy Dinner in America is finally hitting the public. The result is more than the culmination of a lengthy artistic gestation, though—its content, humor, and heart all merge to deliver a piece with the potential for cult appeal that transcends the act itself. It’s a treatise on America, the blurred line between taboo and cruelty, and our collective fear of real individuality despite claims by both sides of the aisle to foster freedom. The outcasts get their day. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Hulu

Emily the Criminal (John Patton Ford)

Taking part in ten Sundance premieres over the last ten years, Aubrey Plaza’s niche in the world of independent cinema has been well carved. Reaching into darker territory as of late, from Ingrid Goes West to Black Bear, her latest film, Emily the Criminal, takes things to a logical next step, placing the actress in strictly thriller territory as her character’s job prospects dwindle and she’s faced with getting into a dangerous, underground world of illegal activity. John Patton Ford’s debut as writer-director is simplistically crafted in both plotting and form, but Plaza’s committed performance carries us through the increasingly dire journey. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Filmatique at NYFF

To celebrate the start of NYFF, Filmatique has curated a selection of their titles that have screened over the decades—from Miguel Gomes’ three-part ARABIAN NIGHTS to Jia Zhangke’s violent exploration of modern China to the final films of Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, and Andrei Tarkovsky to the emergence of major new talent.

Where to Stream: Filmatique

God’s Creatures (Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer)

Some actors slip into familiar roles like old sweaters. Emily Watson might prefer a raincoat. The actress first graced our screens in Breaking the Waves for Lars von Trier: her eyes peeking out from under a wooly hat, whipped by wind and rain, and carrying the sins of an entire town. The great actress faces those same elements again in God’s Creatures, trading von Trier’s nightmarish vision of the Scottish highlands for a doom metal take on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. – Rory O. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

The Justice of Bunny King (Gaysorn Thavat)

There’s a crucial point of clarity in the director’s notes for The Justice of Bunny King wherein director Gaysorn Thavat admits one of her goals for the film was to never let its main character become a victim. Bunny (Essie Davis) is obviously struggling with an unnuanced system of legality that’s left her on the streets without custody of her kids, but she harbors zero regrets where it comes to the actions that brought her to this point. Yes, she served time for manslaughter, but killing her husband was the only way to protect her children from his abuse—abuse that left young Shannon (Amelie Baynes) with permanent disabilities. It wasn’t therefore a choice. It was a necessity. Nothing trumps her family’s safety. Not even Bunny’s own happiness. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (Ana Lily Amirpour)

The way her career is headed, soon we’ll be able to collate an Ana Lily Amirpour map of the United States. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was set in a fantasized Iran––the country of her family heritage––although the most Californian sun and tarmac-parched Iran you could imagine. The Bad Batch was her Texan border town cannibal freakout––where out-of-commission ‘90s Hollywood stars like Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves wandered the Mad Maxian wastelands. Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (a twee title for a film with serious bite) takes one of the most touristically fetishized parts of the US––New Orleans––as its milieu and playground. It doesn’t quite shed the sense of an outsider looking in, extracting the most photogenic and Instagrammable parts for an artfully scuzzy collage, but the emerging theme of Amirpour’s work is actually that of outsider-dom, depicted in a way that’s honestly empowering. (The Bad Batch, in its treatment of physical disability, for instance, is one of the more body-positive films of its era.) – David K. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Nothing Compares (Kathryn Ferguson)

If you know Sinéad O’Connor’s name it’s likely two images come to mind: a buzzed head in a black turtleneck, a ripped-up photograph of Pope John Paul II. Kathryn Ferguson’s new documentary is an excellent primer on the captivating Irish singer’s brief moment of skyrocketing fame and politically motivated plummet. Nothing Compares doesn’t necessarily provide shocking information for those already familiar, but it is a well-executed, dedicated look at a fascinating, outspoken voice. – Shayna W. (full review)

Where to Stream: Showtime

Vesper (Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper)

It’s the New Dark Ages and the world has devolved to mimic a YA novel’s class system with the poor left to fend for themselves in desolate wastelands while the rich remain protected in Citadels sprinkled throughout their expanse. Animals are dead. Plants are dead. Most humans are dead. To survive means scraping by with what few seeds you purchase from the cities, each lasting only one season. The cost is the blood of children and why those with power in the swamps procreate as an occupation. Jonas (Eddie Marsan) is one such man, lording over a farm of his own deformed children wielded as blood banks and babymakers. It’s why his brother Darius (Richard Brake) left to raise his daughter Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) in the woods alone. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Vortex (Gaspar Noé)

Stories from multiple perspectives have been onscreen at least since Rashomon, but even the great Akira Kurosawa might have found something to like in the new Gaspar Noé. The agent provocateur returns to remind us that death is inevitable and rarely dignified. His newest film is Vortex and it takes place in Paris, specifically the apartment of a married couple on the final furlongs of life. It opens on the pair enjoying an evening on the balcony: “life is a dream,” the wife says; to which the husband responds, “a dream within a dream,” quoting Poe; then a clip of Françoise Hardy (“I’m one foot in the grave,” she sings) over a black and white image of a wilting rose. The mind wanders to Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuel Riva in Amour, another story of wilting roses in the French capital. (For once, though, Haneke looks the sentimentalist.) – Rory O. (full review)

Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)

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