With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we believe it’s our duty to highlight the recent, recommended 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, and shoot over suggestions to @TheFilmStage

August: Osage County (John Wells)

Performances aside, August: Osage County mostly directs itself. In adapting his own Pulitzer-Prize winning play, Tracy Letts has made a compressed-but-extremely faithful rendition, and his words — along with unrestrained performances from the likes of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts among others — are what lend this film its power. John Wells, who made his directorial debut with 2010’s The Company Men after decades of work in television, is largely voiceless, allowing the film to play out in conventional editing patterns and infrequent, dialogue-driven exterior shots that attempt to break the film out of its theatrical foundations. In short, this is August: Osage County for those who don’t have a chance to see it on the stage. – Forrest C. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Big Sur (Michael Polish)

I’ve never read a novel by Jack Kerouac—the only Beat Generation tome I have leafed through is William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch—but I imagine the experience is similar to that of watching director Michael Polish’s adaption of the author’s 1962 work, Big Sur. The film is a literal stream of consciousness depiction of the legend’s own word, eight-five percent driven by voiceover narration assumedly being read directly out of the book. This is all backed by a sprawling Explosions in the Sky-lite score from The National and gorgeously composed images of the On the Road scribe’s (non)fictional band of bohemian hedonists and the California environment they inhabit. An ingenious way to bring the story to life, such an experimental visual form’s potential to captivate might leave something to be desired. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Foxfire (Laurent Cantet)

The 1950s and 60s churned out plenty of exploitative pulp films portraying the rise of the then-emerging teenage scurge in America. Female juvenile delinquents and criminal girl gangs were often the subjects, resulting in titillating titles like Kitten with a WhipGirls on the LooseReform School Girl, and many more. While these movies were originally intended as cautionary tales, they now stand as telling reactions to the rise of feminism. Many decades later, director Laurent Cantet (The Class) will see his award-winning drama Foxfire quietly released on VOD today. Adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’s bestseller, the TIFF selection, follows a gang of rebellious girls who wreck havoc on their small New York town. – Amanda W.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai)

As The Grandmaster wheels into its third act and the star-crossed male & female of a decades-old unrequited love begin their final exchanges, Wong Kar-wai makes a quick cut through established rhythm, almost directly propelling us into a 20-minute flashback that comes to occupy the entire center of his film’s concluding section. This lengthy structural and narrative digression is not occupied by Tony Leung‘s Yip Man, our ostensible lead, but Zhang Ziyi‘s Gong Er, a player whose prior integration into the work, while not at all insubstantial, provided nary a suggestion of anything with this size and relative scope: it’s not only much of a personal history being filled in with a quick clip, but that it would, too, contain the most technically elaborate and visually sumptuous confrontation this film has in its entire register. For as lugubrious as it may sound and, to some extent, be, the spell cast over these scenes remains ravishing from start to stop, and so clearly the work of a master that its odd implication in all which precedes and what little follows is of ultimately minor concern. – Nick N. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Hide Your Smiling Faces (Daniel Patrick Carbone)

Immediately after watching the Tribeca Film selection Hide Your Smiling Faces, I happened upon an article that, coincidentally, related closely to the film. Written by author Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic, “The Overprotected Kid” focuses on The Land, a makeshift, minimally supervised playground where children are free to experience and overcome fear, a need that has become suppressed by so-called helicopter parenting and society’s obsession with safety. While focusing on The Land – which is also the subject of a crowd-funded documentary – Rosin cites experts who stress the detriment of sheltering children from a world that, as one source puts it, is “full of risks,” and that adults are mistaken by the idea children are “too fragile or unintelligent to assess the risk of any given situation.” In effect, this leaves kids unequipped to figure things out on their own. For me, the piece unintentionally framed filmmaker Daniel Patrick Carbone‘s picturesque coming-of-age story, which depicts how a sudden tragedy shapes two children. – Amanda W. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson)

“You’re a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I’m quite fond of you. But you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world after all.” When wise but grumpy Gandalf the Grey speaks those words to the titular Hobbit at the end of Tolkien’s story, he means them as a kind-hearted, kidding admonishment. In The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugPeter Jackson’s second, rambling installment of Tolkien’s gentle, slender novel, the statement proves surprisingly literal; stuffed none too comfortably into the sidelines of his own adventure, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo plays second fiddle to Thorin, the dwarves, Gandalf, even Legolas and his Elven lady friend Tauriel. If the first film was a shambling, oddly paced introduction to Bilbo’s efforts to help his dwarven companions return to Erebor, Desolation nearly leaves this “little fellow” behind altogether, spinning a tale of Middle Earth evolving to the state we find it at the opening of Fellowship of the Rings. – Nathan B. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Jobs (Joshua Michael Stern)

Jobs is the kind of biopic that I arrive at with baggage; while I did not personally know Steve Jobs, I’ve been a follower of his life, from his famous product keynotes at Apple to Walter Issacson’s excellent biography. Joshua Michael Stern‘s biopic is not terribly insightful, but it’s a film that knows what it is, just a notch above an original cable movie. The script, by Matt Whitele, brushes over some key biographical moments and along with its lead – Ashton Kutcher as Jobs — it lacks the pretensions of a studio prestige film. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Mistaken For Strangers (Tom Berninger)

Emerging as one of indie rock’s most acclaimed acts in recent years, the Brooklyn-based band The National were the subject of a 2008 documentary titled A Skin, A Night. Directed byVincent Moon, the hour-long film took an aesthetically stark look at the formation of the previous year’s album Boxer. Two records and a great deal of success later, the band is now the subject of another documentary and one that couldn’t be any more different. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael)

It’s been a long time coming for U.S. audiences to see the sci-fi drama Mr. Nobody. Premiering at TIFF and Venice over four years ago, the film has toured the world at this point, already released on Blu-ray and DVD in many territories, but finally hit theaters last fall. Led by Jared Leto, the film follows him as Nemo Nobody, the last mortal in a world of immortals in 2092 — but that just cracks the surface of this wildly ambitious, entertaining, emotional experience. Now available on Netflix, it’s well worth the time to visit and one can even read our brief take from its premiere. – Jordan R. 

Where to Stream: Netflix

Narco Cultura (Shaul Schwarz)

It’s truly stunning to see something so horrendously volatile as the Mexican narcotics trade glorified to the point of celebrity by naïve outsiders far removed from the front line assaults it cultivates. While the city of Juárez wasn’t necessarily “safe” back in 2006 with 300+ homicides, it became a fully-formed warzone afterwards with death counts growing to over 1000 in 2007 before climbing to 3,500+ in 2010—the same year El Paso, TX right across the border was America’s safest city with only five. Shot and directed by Israeli war photographer Shaul Schwarz, the documentary Narco Cultura provides uncensored access into this violent world. We watch Juárez crime scene investigator Richi Soto risk his life daily, while ex-con Angeleno Edgar Quinteroprofits off the carnage with popular corridos vaulting the criminals responsible into pop culture icons worthy of adolescent idolatry. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

The Past (Asghar Farhadi)

Should we forget the past in order to better our future? This existential question is at the core of The PastAsghar Farhadi‘s follow-up film to the Oscar-winning Iranian film A Separation. Strikingly similar in tone, The Past deals with a trio of characters all groping with personal problems that interconnect in sometimes unpredictable ways. This unfolding drama plays out like a soap opera in terms of the details resting inside each character’s relationship and personal dilemma, yet the material is elevated by Farhadi’s carefully nuanced direction, allowing performances to take center stage. The end result is an effective examination of how past lives can sometimes dictate future selves. – Raffi A. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Punk Singer (Sini Anderson)

When Kathleen Hanna is shown sitting at her home discussing her exit from fronting Le Tigre, she says, “I felt I had said everything I wanted to say.” It’s the kind of sentiment that makes you truly respect an artist, knowing they weren’t in it for the money or the fame. They used their art as a platform to share their ideals and try to change an injustice in the world. And while we quickly discover this reason was in fact a lie—The Punk Singer is as much a document of her career as it is a public explanation for the truth behind her early retirement—it doesn’t negate that her songs were utilized for this purpose. A feminist with as many detractors as fans (if not more) Hanna has always been larger than her music alone. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Viola (Matías Piñeiro)

It’s all too common to begin an auteurist appreciation with an explanation of the old question “What is cinema?” By doing so, the author can curtail their answer to one that expresses what the director in question best represents their conception of cinema: montage and Eisenstein, time and Tarkovsky, “realism” and Swanberg. Thankfully, director Matías Piñeiro doesn’t believe in containing or explaining cinema. For him, the medium cannot be qualified and categorized, and even a director shouldn’t follow any strict conception of what he did before. Cinema can be whatever it wants to be, and Piñeiro’s four films are wonderfully boundless in that sense. – Peter L. (full review)

Where to Stream: iTunes

White Reindeer (Zach Clark)

Just in time for the holiday season comes White Reindeer, perhaps the saddest Christmas film ever made. It’s also one of the better Christmas films to come out in some time. Directed by Zach Clark and starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, the film opens on happy couple Jeff (Nathan Williams) and Suzanne (Hollyman) Barrington. They live in the Washington D.C. suburbs in a beautiful starter home. Suzanne sells real estate and Jeff is the local weatherman. It’s a month before Christmas and Jeff’s just got a new job that is sending them to Hawaii. Things are going well. Then Jeff is brutally killed during a home invasion, Suzanne returning home to find him dead on the floor. – Dan M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

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