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.
This week’s New to Streaming column is sponsored by Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love, now streaming on Disney+, courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films.
Fire of Love (Sara Dosa)
In a bond forged over mutual fascination (or obsession) with the mysteries of volcanoes, Katia and Maurice Krafft dedicated their lives to discovering everything they could about these natural phenomena. Forces of both awe-inspiring wonder and tragic disaster, Sara Dosa’s archival documentary Fire of Love gracefully captures this extreme dichotomy while also getting to the heart of what drove this couple to abandon a routine, domesticated lifestyle and literally sacrifice their lives in the mission to save others. In telling their devotion to one of the natural world’s most dangerous forces, Dosa crafts a documentary that would make Herzog proud—and an ideal double feature with Into the Inferno, his collaboration with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, which also features the Kraffts. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Disney+
Amsterdam (David O. Russell)
All throughout Amsterdam you can hear the gears clunking and grinding and screeching. Could it be the rust? It’s been seven years since David O. Russell made a movie—even longer since he made one that sang with the kind of drugged-out, balletic energy that satisfieshis crowded, star-studded ensembles—and you can tell. Something just feels off. He’s back directing an overstuffed, incongruous, stranger-than-fiction yarn attempting to dramatize (or satirize?) one of the most bizarre plots in American history. That you can’t always tell—the movie arbitrarily pivots from serious conspiracy to buddy comedy throug every scene—only highlights the chaotic tonal friction at its core. There’s enough heat to call this a lukewarm mess. – Jake K. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
If the meditative stylings of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky were applied to the martial arts genre, the end result would likely resemble Hou Hsiao-hsien’s rapturous tone poem The Assassin. As much concerned with the essence of nature as it is the essence of humanity, this endlessly beautiful film is equal parts enigmatic storytelling as it is purely enthralling cinema. Though some will find the plot obtuse and hard-to-follow, the elegance in the composition of each frame, combined with subtle use of natural sound, creates an absorbing atmosphere that will transport you to 8th-century China. Featuring a subdued yet spellbinding performance from actress Shu Qi as the titular killer, The Assassin delivers a detour from traditional tropes of the wuxia genre and instead creates a breathtaking experience full of wonder and awe. – Raffi A.
Don’t Worry Darling (Olivia Wilde)
Where better to set a paradisal experimental housing development than Palm Springs? The sun is always shining and the empty desert expands as far as the eye can see in every direction, a vast, impenetrable barrier between manicured reality and the rest of the world. It all but guarantees privacy and safety, perhaps the two most cherished values in suburban society, and the two values most under fire in Olivia Wilde’s psycho-sexual thriller Don’t Worry Darling. – Luke H. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Max
Ham on Rye (Tyler Taormina)
Tyler Taormina’s singularly woozy debut about a group of teens making their way toward some cryptic rite of passage spins the high-school genre like a top. Purposefully devoid of clarifying exposition, it builds narrative mythology out of the dual uncertainty and excitement felt by young people making their initial crossing into adulthood. The result is a mysterious mash of sinister possibilities and forlorn melancholy that lingers like the smoky air so prominent in its central celebratory sequence inside a portal-like sandwich shop. – Glenn H.
Where to Stream: OVID.tv
Hold Me Tight (Mathieu Amalric)
The narrative action of Mathieu Amalric’s latest directorial feature, Hold Me Tight, adapted from a play which was never staged, takes place in a kind of suspended timeline. One day Clarisse (Vicky Krieps) wakes up, gets dressed, and goes for a drive. In voiceover we hear that she has left her two children and husband and bears, it seems, no intention of returning. We see the family that has been left behind as they adjust to her sudden departure: the kids act out, the husband hides his panic, and they eventually begin settling into their new life. – Gabrielle M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Kino Now
Is That Black Enough For You?!? (Elvis Mitchell)
A comprehensive, personal, and kaleidoscopic look at representation, Elvis Mitchell’s Is That Black Enough For You?!? is a passionate and loving walk through film history framed by Blaxploitation cinema of the 1970s. Written, directed, and narrated by the master conversationalist, curator, film scholar, and cultural critic, this is a densely packed visual essay told through film clips, archival materials, and interviews with Black stars of multiple eras who speak to the influence of this sub-genre on their lives and careers. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Les Mains Négatives (Marguerite Duras)
Testing the relationship between images and their narration, Les Mains Négatives muses on the 30,000 year-old impressions of early human hands in the Magdalenian Caves off the Atlantic Coast of Europe. Between moonlit mornings and spontaneous poetry, this first short by the inimitable writer explores the love and loneliness that populates the passage of time.
Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club
The Metamorphosis of Birds (Catarina Vasconcelos)
The most purely, incandescently beautiful movie of the year is a dreamy cross between documentary and fiction that explores the tricky matter of one’s own lineage. As in a daze, we see three generations of love and sorrow reincarnated in a kaleidoscope of spellbinding images, beneath which there’s longing, blame, and above all a sense of genuine revelation. Families are messy and closure is a myth, but with storytelling this vitally expressive, one may actually hope to heal and some day understand. – Zhuo-Ning Su
Where to Stream: Netflix
My Father’s Dragon (Nora Twomey)
The films of Cartoon Saloon have an inherently folkloric quality, often feeling like tales that have been passed down through centuries—even if they are boldly original stories only loosely inspired by ancient accounts of the magical and mystical. It’s why an adaptation of My Father’s Dragon, the 1948 children’s book by author Ruth Stiles Gannett, is such a perfect fit for the studio, thanks to a narrator (Mary Kay Place) who presents the story as the real-life experience of her own father a generation earlier. It has the innate achievement of feeling like an urban legend, a tall tale given to new storytellers over the years and growing all the more fantastical with each person that claims authorship. – Alistair R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
The third installment in Roy Andersson’s trilogy looks and operates quite a bit like the two that precede it, thus making A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence an easy sell to the already-converted. But rather than preach to his choir, the Swedish helmer makes enough approaches to constitute an evolution, most notably in its remarkably grim, shockingly disturbing final stretch, as bleak a send-off to a series as any I can think to name. But with an eye for set construction and physical choreography that’s at its peak, the only shame is that he’s stopping now. – Nick N.
Starfuckers (Antonio Marziale)
Starfuckers is one of the best selections at this year’s Sundance festival. The story follows two twinks out for revenge on a Hollywood executive; it only grows more surreal as it progresses. Directed and written by Antonio Marziale, who co-stars with Cole Doman, the latter plays an escort for a Hollywood executive who has a school-boy kink with a twist. When Marziale’s character sneaks into the executive’s house, a night of fun becomes a nightmare. The two drug him, and when he wakes up they perform a ritualistic act of revenge. Starfuckers implies the executive tricked the duo into exchanging their dignity for access, but their performance shows the depth of their humanity. – Josh E.
Ticket to Paradise (Ol Parker)
2022 has been the year of the big-screen romantic comedy resurgence. But while audiences may have been reminded of the joys of the high-concept, star-driven genre thanks to the likes of Marry Me and The Lost City, the year’s final rom-com blockbuster serves only to remind the general public why they got fatigued in the first place. Ticket to Paradise represents the genre at its laziest, coasting by on the natural chemistry between its two beloved lead stars, who eventually struggle to mine any humor from a script that quickly prioritizes unearned sentimentality over genuine laughs. – Alistair R. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin)
Look out: we have a new entry in the “Great Man” biopic subgenre, one that has spawned films as varied as John Ford’s The Long Gray Line and, uh, Jay Roach’s Trumbo. Joining the ranks is Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century, which, with great aplomb, takes the piss out of Canadian history, showing us The (gradual) Taking of Power By William Lyon Mackenzie King, this nation’s 10th Prime Minister. – Ethan V. (full review)
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