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.
Ambulance (Michael Bay)
The Marvel machine may be the most fortuitous development for Michael Bay. Though the director hasn’t dabbled in the world of superheroes—despite a fondness for a cinematic universe of the robot variety—the homogenized, green-screen wasteland of today’s box-office behemoths has indirectly led to a reappreciation of the director’s schoolboy giddiness for practical effects and continually upping the ante for where he can place a camera. As bombastic and occasionally mind-numbing as his approach may be, there’s distinct poetry to the momentum of a maximalist vision where previs filmmaking vis-a-vis a committee is not only missing from his vocabulary, but a kinetic approach makes such a proposition nigh impossible. With Ambulance, a streamlined spectacle that borrows liberally from Heat, Speed, and John Q, Bay seems to be at his most comfortable and invigorated in years, milking the ridiculously heightened premise for all its worth while maintaining grounded stakes despite a few bumps along the road. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Peacock
Emergency (Jeff Tremaine)
Emergency starts out like a typical college-aged comedy. As the school year ends, two protagonists—Kunle (Donald Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler), best friends with divergent personalities and points of view—prepare for an epic night out, aiming to become the first Black students to complete their university’s legendary seven-leg frat party tour. It’s easy to envision this alcohol-induced adventure turning into a checklist of romantic hookups, drunken confessions, and drugged-up shenanigans. But those cliches are all just decoration in this “night gone wrong” drama, which has much more on its mind than coming-of-age hijinks. – Jake K. (full review)
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Jackass 4.5 (Jeff Tremaine)
After a decade of absence, the boys returned for Jackass Forever earlier this year, bringing along some new faces to stretch the limits of the human body. Against all odds, they didn’t lose their touch and following their bittersweet exploration of aging and friendship, an expansion has arrived. While Jackass 4.5 functions more like a behind-the-scenes documentary than a new film, the approach is welcome, offering a fascinating look at the unlucky timing of production as the pandemic began as well as reflections on what it meant to reunite––along with, yes, many ball-busting gags. With a TV series now in the works, it also looks like this won’t be the final send-off. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Mariner of the Mountains (Karim Aïnouz)
After earning much acclaim with his beautiful melodrama The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz returns with Mariner of the Mountains, a travelogue essay depicting his journey to his father’s homeland in Algeria. What begins as an evocative experiment in rethinking an approach to capturing personal history eventually turns into a narcoleptic jumble of ideas searching for a more complete form. Nonetheless, Aïnouz’s expressive touch merits viewing and here’s hoping his next project has a bit more focus. – Jordan R.
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)
An aspiring actress and a woman suffering from amnesia stumble upon mystery and danger on the palm tree laden streets of sunny Los Angeles. Betty (Naomi Watts) has just arrived in town, bringing with her inevitable silver screen ambitions. Rita (Laura Elena Harring) has just stumbled from a limo crash on the titular Mulholland Drive, into an apartment owned by Betty’s aunt, bleeding from the head and unable to remember her name. She selects ‘Rita’ from a movie poster, gazing hypnotically at the name Rita Hayworth. Soon, we discover we’ve wandered into a dreamscape, fractured by the past and perhaps even by the violence of a scorned lover. High hopes are dashed on the rocks, and the death of this beauty is, in many ways, eulogized at Club Silencio, where a woman lip-syncs a Roy Orbison song. As we were informed, there is no band. It is only a tape recording, an illusory facsimile of a true expression of beauty. Indeed, there is inherent beauty in both women, but as the dream twists, one jilts the other, and ugliness bubbles to the otherwise immaculate surface. – Tony H.
Navalny (Daniel Roher)
Early in Daniel Roher’s alarming and essential documentary Navalny, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sits in Germany, having recovered from being poisoned. Asked what message he might leave behind if killed, he resists and tells the director he’d rather have this film be a thriller, half-jokingly saying “If I die you can make a boring movie of remembrance.” The film is anything but––a living work of journalism made by CNN in secret, revealed as a mystery documentary premiere only after Sundance was underway this year. Putin and Sundance have a bit of history: in 2017 hackers briefly took down the festival’s box office after the premiere of the doping-scandal documentary Icarus. Thankfully no such issues were reported this year. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Max
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.
Where to Stream: Tubi
Results (Andrew Bujalski)
Certain movies coast by on the charm of their cast, and that’s pretty much the case with writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s Results. That’s not to say the film completely rests on the shoulders of the talent assembled, but if there’s one major reason why the film ultimately succeeds, it’s because of this pack of reliable actors turning in entertaining performances. – Dylan C. (full review)
Where to Stream: Tubi
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