With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’re highlighting the noteworthy titles that have recently hit platforms. Check out this week’s selections below and an archive of past round-ups here.
Jupiter’s Moon (Kornél Mundruczó)
The juxtaposition of supernatural thriller tropes and urgent socio-political issues in Kornél Mundruczó’s latest movie — an original take on the superhero origin story set to the backdrop of the refugee crisis — might prove a delicate one for some viewers to take. Those unperturbed, however, should find much to relish in Jupiter’s Moon, a film that somewhat lightly plays with themes of religion and immigration as it rumbles, crashes, and ultimately soars through the streets of the Hungarian capital. It’s a tricky balance and Mundruczó (who had a break-out with his canine revolt film White God in 2014) strikes it with style and confidence (even going so far as to signpost it in an opening prologue that reminds the audience that the titular gas giant’s largest orbiting body is called Europa, and that many believe that large oceans rest beneath its icy surface where a “cradle of life” might exist). The hero of Jupiter’s Moon, a young Syrian refugee with the connotation heavy name of Aryan (played by Majd Asmi), does not find a cradle of life in his Europa. To the contrary, in fact, he’s gunned down in the opening minutes. – Rory O. (full review)
The Mend (John Magary)
Against all odds, The Mend is not that sort of film; then again, it’s not really any sort of film. At one turn a comedy centered on two brothers, Mat (Josh Lucas, never more worn-looking) and Alan (Stephen Plunkett), and the dynamics their familiar character molds naturally create — the former’s a degenerate with glimmers of kindness and a hopeful existence; the latter’s an upper-class career man who’s seeing the most important piece of his life fall away, mostly because he’s no less an asshole than his brother, but merely a bit nicer in being so — it also earns the right to be called an existentialist drama for relying as much on, say, the moods a room’s lighting might create throughout a given day as it does the forces of language. It’s a consistently wonderful, occasionally astonishing, deservedly moving piece of film craft layered on top of a screamingly funny screenplay, one that seems to have (rightfully) been designed for the sake of fitting around the muscularity of Magary’s formal expression. (Or vice-versa, perhaps; the dichotomy’s tight enough to make that relationship ambitious.) More than that, though, The Mend is possibly the finest, most significant American film that 2015 has offered thus far, and certainly one of the year’s great pictures, full stop. – Nick N. (full review)
Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)
Phoenix and Barbara (Christian Petzold)
Following the Second World War, European auteurs probed its lingering national psychological fallout resulting in films such as Night and Fog, Hiroshima Mon Amour, and Germany Year Zero. Phoenix sits well within that style, its historical perspective strangely 60 years out of date but not unwelcome for it. Themes of identity, guilt, and misrecognition play out when a Holocaust survivor returns to Berlin. Nelly (Nina Hoss), who’s had reconstructive surgery on her face, seeks out her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) in the ruins of the city even as her friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf) warns her that Johnny betrayed her to the Nazis. – Martin J. (full review)
Vox Lux (Brady Corbet)
Pop music and mounting cultural violence collide as points of consideration in this divisive, engrossing film. Brady Corbet writes a story and character that demand strong opinions from the audience, and shoots the film with unblinking conviction against all its absurdity and horror. Natalie Portman is the definition of fearless in her vulnerable, brittle turn as a pop star unable to reckon with her own celebrity. – Brian R.
Wanda (Barbara Loden)
The latest Criterion Channel movie of the week is one of their most recent major restorations. Wanda, written by, directed by, and starring Barbara Loden, is an American independent landmark, even if it wasn’t appreciated upon its release back in 1970. The only feature from Loden–who was married to Elia Kazan until her death at the age of 48 from breast cancer, 10 years after the film’s release–Wanda follows a woman’s struggle in the northeast coal region of Pennsylvania.
Where to Stream: Criterion Channel
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