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.
Amour Fou (Jessica Hausner)
An ecstatically original work of film-history-philosophy with a digital-cinema palette of acutely crafted compositions. Amour Fou seamlessly blends together the paintings of Vermeer, the acting of Bresson, and the psychological undercurrents of a Dostoevsky novel. It is an intensely thrilling and often slyly comic work that manages to combine a passionately dispassionate love story of the highest order with a larger socio-historical examination of a new era of freedom, and the tragedy beset by those trapped in its enclosed world. – Peter L.
Where to Stream: Hulu (for free)
Anesthesia (Tim Blake Nelson)
A retiring Philosophy professor (Sam Waterston) buzzes up to a stranger’s apartment one night, screaming for help. The tenant (Cory Stoll) rushes downstairs, and finds two men, bloody and beaten on the doorstep. One is the ailing professor, and the other, we cannot see. The narrative then flashes back several days to show us how these characters came to meet this gruesome fate. Anesthesia offers an intriguing but familiar set up, which splays the story out into numerous sprawling strands. The film is Altmanesque in its conceptualization, as the lives of roughly a dozen strangers crisscross and interlock in unexpected ways. – Tony H. (full review)
A Walk in the Woods (Ken Kwapis)
Originally designed to be another collaboration between Robert Redford and Paul Newman, A Walk in the Woods is now coming to the screen with Redford intact and the addition of Nick Nolte. Making the two legendary actors enjoyable to watch as they converse on a trail doesn’t sound too difficult, but sadly, the script stumbles to give them material suited to their talents. – Jack G. (full review)
Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler)
The Western experienced a resurgence this year, and writer-director S. Craig Zahler’s unflinching splatter western, Bone Tomahawk, was perhaps the most unexpected surprise. Directed with an assured, patient hand and written with an anachronistic zip that gleefully evokes Deadwood, Bone Tomahawk isn’t so much an adventure movie as it is an anti-hero movie. With a framework that recalls The Searchers, complete with a virulent racist (Matthew Fox in a career-best performance), and a rescue mission from Indians at its core, Bone Tomahawk skirts some very racist subtext about outsiders and savages. But it’s saved by both how little of the journey is actually about the Indians, and, more significantly, how those figures are meant to represent an omniscience. At a certain point, that specter of existentialism is finally calcified into pure annihilation. Even then, this isn’t merely a hybrid of exploitation and western components. The violence comes with a near-supernatural brutality — over in a flash, but unending in its effects. Bone Tomahawk doesn’t have heroes or villains; man is trespassing on nature, and anything that happens is inevitable. The ensemble — Patrick Wilson, Kurt Russell, Fox, and MVP Richard Jenkins — are stocked up for a journey by normal standards, but they’re totally unprepared for this vicious, uncaring landscape. Late in the movie, a character says, “We’ll make sure this all has value.” It’s hard to know what he means when this part of the world was always meant to be hidden. – Michael S.
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Chi-Raq (Spike Lee)
Spike Lee’s best picture in years, Chi-Raq is a timely call to action. Opening to a Chicago embroiled in controversy, Lee’s stated objective is to save lives on Chicago’s Southside, a fiery cry against gun violence and a system that protects gang members while women and children are caught in the cross fire. A modern-day adaption of Lysistrata, Chi-Raq is lively and often hilarious; it has the spunk of some of his best and most political work, such as Do the Right Thing. With a cast that includes Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Jennifer Hudson, and Teyonah Parris in a break-out role as the story’s heroine, its lively performances are as transcendent as the film is ambitious. Rarely does a work achieve so much, and its stakes couldn’t be higher. – John F.
Irrational Man (Woody Allen)
To the unsuspecting viewer, Woody Allen‘s latest feature may seem like another dabble in a May–December romance, but this soon reveals itself to be something altogether different. Although its fairly useless voice-over is little more than padding for the breezy farce, it’s perhaps most interesting to see the ways in which Joaquin Phoenix subverts a usual Woody Allen type. While some of his leading men as of late have wrangled the witticisms with speedy verve, Phoenix’s deliberate parsing makes for one of Allen’s more compelling figures, particularly as more sinister themes rise to the surface. – Jordan R.
Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray)
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.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)
Just when one thinks there’s not much more than can be said about Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining, a whole documentary gets made about the various, mostly far-reaching theories. Featuring some of the most striking imagery in his filmography, along with one of Jack Nicholson‘s most absorbing performances, this utter descent into madness is simply a must-watch, again and again. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Treasure (Corneliu Porumboiu)
Though regularly grouped with the directors that comprise the Romanian New Wave, Corneliu Porumboiu’s brand of social realism is all his own. Dispensing with the shaky cam so popular amongst his peers, his fictional features capture the world through contemplative long takes, their duration and frequent immobility allowing for careful observations of the subjects’ relationship to their environment, which is always reflective of wider-reaching concerns. The Treasure, his fifth feature and the winner of this year’s Un Certain Talent Prize, is the latest gem in the director’s exquisite filmography — another tightly focused, minimalist and enchantingly humane story of individual struggle within the broader social reality of contemporary Romania. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
Uncle John (Steven Piet)
Sleepy thriller. Indie rom-com. Dark comedy. The debut feature from writer-director Steven Piet — who co-scripted the work with fellow first-timer Erik Crary — is all of those things and so much more. Besides balancing multiple genres with ease, this double-pronged story of a retired farmer, a big-city office worker, and a murder cover-up stands apart with dynamic parallel editing, charming characters, and a knack for capturing the simple beauty of modern-day rural America. Complete with a real nail-biter of a climax, Piet has managed to deliver one of the year’s most pleasant and masterful surprises. – Amanda W.
Where to Stream: Netflix
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay)
We Need to Talk About Kevin represents an immensely exciting piece of filmmaking from Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar). That might seem like an odd label for this adaptation of Lionel Shriver‘s best-selling novel, considering the relentlessly harrowing subject matter in question, but it’s hard to come up with any other phrase to describe the sheer vivacity of Ramsay‘s directorial approach. This is indeed a film that keeps your emotions in constant flux — terrorized by the actions of the titular character in one moment, happily floored by Ramsay’s consistently fresh choices the next. – Danny K. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
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