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.
A War (Tobias Lindholm)
In only his second outing as sole director after 2012’s acclaimed A Hijacking, Tobias Lindholm is commanding unusual levels of respect and anticipation with A War – undoubtedly earned with the establishing of a very personal brand of filmmaking, rooted in observation, deliberate pacing and a terse directing style. Viewers familiar with his previous film, a hostage drama detailing the hijacking of a Danish cargo ship by Somali pirates, will find the same approach at work in A War: protagonist Pilou Asbæk returns to shoulder much of the dramatic weight, aided by familiar faces like Søren Malling and Dar Salim and a roster of non-professional actors with relevant backgrounds. – Tommaso T. (full review)
New to Streaming: Netflix
Barbershop: The Next Cut (Malcom B. Lee)
There are worse reasons to make a movie than advocacy, but Malcom B. Lee’s Barbershop: The Next Cut feels so distractingly reverse-engineered from its talking points that the movie nearly halts to a stop whenever the movie visibly shifts from a hang-out vibe to something more narratively ambitious. The third installment (or fourth, if you count the 2005 spin-off) in a series that began near the turn of the century, The Next Cut too rarely has a razor-sharp wit, but aiming for a bigger bullseye than ever, it still hits the target more often than not. – Michael S. (full review)
The Big Short (Adam McKay)
Co-writer / director Adam McKay made a genuine Adam McKay film with The Big Short. The director of Step Brothers isn’t exactly known for drama, but his outrageous sense of humor serves this fierce, angry, high-stakes tale of outsiders. In exploring the recent financial crisis in a way that’s entertaining, funny, and shocking to watch unfold, The Big Short is the rare example of a film built entirely on exposition that can still work. – Jack G.
New to Streaming: Netflix
By the Sea (Angelina Jolie)
By the Sea begins with Angelina Jolie Pitt and her real-life husband Brad Pitt driving a sports car to a resort in France. The sumptuous buildings, the aerial camera shots, and the exquisite lighting create the impression of elegance and expense. Given this and the film’s paratext – arguably the most famous couple in America (except possibly Kimye) starring together in a film Jolie Pitt wrote and directed, with few other players and a quiet, contemplative trailer – one might assume they’re playing fictionalized versions of themselves. Might this even be one of those films where the main characters are nameless, “He” and “She” or “A” and “B”? – Forrest C. (full review)
The Invitation (Karyn Kusama)
Director Karyn Kusama is back this year, returning to her low-budget roots with The Invitation, a taut psychological thriller following a dinner party with many twists and turns that aren’t easily shaken. We said in our review at SXSW, “As the tension effectively builds and pay-off is pulled off with aplomb, The Invitation is a mostly effective small-scale thriller, despite some missteps along the way.” – Jordan R.
New to Streaming: Netflix
I Saw the Light (Marc Abraham)
The opening to Marc Abraham‘s I Saw the Light holds a lot of intrigue. Based on Colin Escott‘s biography about hillbilly legend Hank Williams, the start goes from a faux black and white newsreel interview with producer Fred Rose (Bradley Whitford) recounting how one-of-a-kind the singer was to a magically lit performance by Tom Hiddleston as Williams (the actor sings every note and the actors playing his band pluck every string). He’s sitting on a stool with a hazy spotlight pouring down, his chiaroscuro silhouette against the darkened audience foreshadowing the drama to come. It had me preparing for something truly special, but sadly the film proved familiar instead. – Jared M. (full review)
Louder Than Bombs (Joachim Trier)
Joachim Trier‘s latest may not reach the heights of his two excellent previous features — Reprise and Oslo, August 31st — but it’s still a tenderly realized drama full of great, small moments. Featuring strong performances from the ensemble, which includes Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg, and Gabriel Byrne, it’s interesting to see how Trier approaches American culture as he explores the difficulty of communication for those in this estranged family. – Jordan R.
Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro)
From Blue Is the Warmest Color to Stranger by the Lake, from Pride to The Danish Girl, movies dealing with LGBT issues or characters have become ever more present at film festivals and cineplexes these past years. Against such background it’s especially intriguing to consider something like Neon Bull – a Brazilian rodeo drama in which everybody turns out to be straight – and its place in queer cinema. – Zhuo-Ning S. (full review)
Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
Free from the manipulation that a Hollywood picture might offer, Room is a masterfully crafted and wrenching portrait of Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay), both giving affecting performances as a mother and son imprisoned in a small room. Carefully constructed by director Lenny Abrahamson, the room is the entire world for Ma and Jack until they are (spoilers!) liberated in a stunning escape. What follows is just as brilliant. Adapted by Emma Donohue from her novel, Room is a triumph and a tearjerker, confidently directed and masterfully acted. – John F.
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Zero Days (Alex Gibney; July 8th)
With an output so rapid, we don’t blame you if you’ve missed the last few documentaries from Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Taxi to the Dark Side). His next one, however, you’ll certainly want to pay attention to. We said in our review, “With its focus on the U.S. government’s covert advances into the field of cyberwarfare, Zero Days resembles Gibney’s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, an equally searing indictment of the U.S. military’s government-sanctioned use of torture during the Iraq War. Although his scope is much more ambitious this time around, the writer-director handles this expansive, technically complex, and ethically abstract subject matter with remarkable cogency, crafting a documentary that’s as enlightening as it is disquieting.” – Jordan R.
Also New to Streaming