With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options—not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves–each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit platforms. Check out this week’s selections below and an archive of past round-ups here.
Bad Boys For Life (Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah)
Much has been made in retrospect how quaint the original ‘95 Bad Boys plays in comparison to its ‘03 follow-up. It rode on the rapport of its leads through only a handful of gunfights and fisticuffs, culminating in an airport climax Bay had to front his own money to finish. The second installment contains not one but two extended car chases with trucks emptying obstacles onto our heroes, and an entire slum being obliterated by a Hummer with little regard for human life–all across a gratuitous two and a half hours. In short, eight years apart, the buddy cop franchise already felt like the work of two different filmmakers. It’s both fitting and perhaps a relief that this long (long) gestating third outing should change hands entirely. What’s lost in the exchange is that Bay often felt like the third lead in these films. His cartoonish hues and bombastic camera choices were captivating performances in their own right, not easily ignored, sometimes to a fault. His affinity for Miami-via-Hot Wheels is notably absent here, and is frankly missed. – Conor O. (full review)
The luminous French icon Catherine Deneuve gets the spotlight on The Criterion Channel, featuring Vice and Virtue (Roger Vadim, 1963), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964), Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965), Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967), The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967), Mississippi Mermaid (François Truffaut, 1969), Donkey Skin (Jacques Demy, 1970), Tristana (Luis Buñuel, 1970), Un flic (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1972), A Slightly Pregnant Man (Jacques Demy, 1973), The Last Metro (François Truffaut, 1980), The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983), The Young Girls Turn 25 (Agnès Varda, 1993), A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008), The Girl on the Train (André Téchiné, 2009), and On My Way (Emmanuelle Bercot, 2013).
Dragged Across Concrete (S. Craig Zahler)
With only three directorial features to his name, one knew about 10 minutes into his debut, Bone Tomahawk, if the dialogue-heavy, bone-crunching, and perhaps offensively brash films of S. Craig Zahler were up one’s alley. While his latest, Dragged Across Concrete, incurred some controversy due to the casting of Mel Gibson, among other things, any film in which (spoilers) the lives of its lead white characters end in bleak despair is proof enough the director is clearly playing both sides of the coin. His latest is an opus of desolation (with some of the most memorably empty spaces since Twin Peaks: The Return), the likes of which is simply absent in independent American filmmaking. With his take-no-prisoners vision when it comes to duration and conversational excess, some may wonder what a bigger-budget project from the director may look like, but if it means losing the ability to do anything he wants with no questions asked, then here’s hoping he’s content with his current stature. As the new master of pulp and violence, here’s hoping he continues the next decade with the same level of proclivity. – Jordan. R.
Where to Stream: HBO
Free HBO Series & Movies
While everyone is offering up more content in the age of the coronavirus, no one thus far has been more generous than HBO. They are now streaming, for free with no subscription or account required, a number of series and movies. Highlights in the TV realm include The Sopranos, The Wire, Succession, Veep, Six Feet Under, Silicon Valley, and Barry. There’s also a select number of films, including Midnight Special, The Bridges of Madison County, Empire of the Sun, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, and Blinded by the Light.
Where to Stream: HBO
Inventing the Future (Isiah Medina)
After his dense, radical debut 88:88 a few years back, Isiah Medina is back with his follow-up feature and he’s released it for free. Available to stream above or download here, it’s an adaptation of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’s Inventing the Future, with this brief but intriguing synopsis: “Take back control over our future and foster the ambition for a world more modern than capitalism. Demand full automation, demand a reduced work week, demand universal basic income, destroy the work ethic.” – Jordan R.
Invisible Life (Karim Aïnouz)
Based on a 2015 novel by Martha Batalha, Karim Aïnouz’s Invisible Life is a tale of resistance. It hones in on two inseparable sisters stranded in–and ultimately pulled apart by–an ossified patriarchal world. It is an engrossing melodrama where melancholia teems with rage, with a tear-jerking finale that feels so devastating because of the staggering mix of love and fury that precedes it. It is, far and above, an achingly beautiful story of sisterly love. – Leonardo G.
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Light From Light (Paul Harrill)
Single mother Sheila (Marin Ireland) is a car rental saleswoman by day and paranormal investigator by night. Raising her teenage son, Owen (Josh Wiggins), however, is a full-time job. Or, at least, it was and she preferred it that way. Now their relationship is strained as both face the likelihood of extended separation due to Owen being college-bound and becoming increasingly independent. A job opportunity to study a widower’s supposedly haunted abode could give them the chance they need to reconnect or might only make matters worse. Light from Light is an understated ghost story that forgoes the supernatural in favor of examining how such pursuits can reflect the psychic and emotional wounds left behind by the deceased. Furthermore, it’s about carrying on as the pang of loss lingers long after grief has subsided without the film ever resorting to amateur psychoanalysis or storytelling contrivances. Instead, Paul Harrill’s sensitive direction allows the characters to organically come to their own conclusions, bolstered by outstanding performances from Marin Ireland and, unexpectedly, Jim Gaffigan as the widower, Richard. – Kyle P.
Where to Stream: iTunes
Good luck finding exaltations of Maurice Pialat that won’t strive to thrust his filmography—10 features, one mini-series, sundry shorts, and an ensuing lifetime’s obsession—directly in your hands. Those bearing even a bit of the proper disposition should shortly grasp why: for however-many displays of compositional intelligence, actorly grace, and editorial genius—removal of material that would induce apathy, no matter its narrative or character-building importance, was standard operation procedure—their point of entry is our amygdala. His characters slap, scream, cry, contemplate, fuck, try to change everything but hardly change at all, sometimes just drop dead, and always look beautiful, and each film can only wrap themselves around in a full embrace. The majority of Pialat’s oeuvre is now collected into a single package by the Criterion Channel, which could not have predicted the climate of its arrival. But if loving these films could suggest slight masochism, consider the timing somehow fortuitous. – Nick N.
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Minority Report (Steven Spielberg)
Steven Spielberg was in top form when he helmed Minority Report, a high-concept, high-wire neo-noir that remains one of the new millennium’s snazziest blockbusters. Playing yet another version of his improbably athletic onscreen self, Tom Cruise is a police chief on the run after his “Pre-Crime” law enforcement program implicates him in the future murder of someone he’s never met. This doozy of a premise asks us to ponder the ethicality of jailing would-be criminals based on not-yet-perpetrated crimes and, by extension, the question of fate itself. Is this system flawless or irreparably flawed? Can Cruise’s hero not kill his supposed victim? Minority Report is popcorn cinema bold enough to wax philosophical in these ways even as it pushes ever-forward through visual virtuosity and a pleasingly twisty storyline. – Jonah J.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
In a world where the hot-button issue of abortion has been a divisive point of political pull in which the majority of those in power will never have to grapple with the decision their entire lives, how do we shift our perspective to find the empathy towards those that are directly affected by when, how, and who can undergo the procedure? We can start with Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Eliza Hittman’s deeply moving chronicle of a teenager’s struggle to terminate her pregnancy. By steering clear of overtly political messages and naturalistically centering our perspective solely in the mindset of Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) through this journey, I can’t imagine a soul that won’t be inspired to give more careful consideration to those in similar situations. – Jordan R. (full review)
Onward (Dan Scanlon)
Like James Cameron, Pixar should never be doubted. The studio’s remarkably consistent success continues with Onward, a delightful, genuinely moving film about children, siblings, and parents who just so happen to be fantastical creatures. That element is perhaps the film’s only real weak point. An early voice-over explains the backstory: Mythical creatures inhabit the earth, but the magic that was once commonplace has been replaced by modern conveniences. It’s a bit of a hurdle, this rather convoluted explanation. And at times the entire mythical creature motif seems unnecessary. Perhaps seeing a “real person” consisting of just a midsection, legs, and feet, seemed like a poor idea. – Chris S. (full review)
Where to Stream: Disney+
The Other Lamb (Małgorzata Szumowska)
There’s a scene in Małgorzata Szumowska’s dark, stomach-churning, brilliant drama The Other Lamb that perfectly encapsulates the life-on-the-outside longing of being born into a cult. A charismatic man referred to by his flock as Shepherd is leading his all-female acolytes on foot as they search for a new home; a visit from the authorities set this plan into action. One of his followers–his daughter–is Selah, a teenager whose mother passed away shortly after giving birth. Selah is simultaneously spellbound by and suspicious of Shepherd. As she and her fellow daughters and wives wander the harsh landscape, a car passes by. Selah imagines herself in the backseat, chewing gum, wearing a high school jacket. Her eyes meet the eyes of her imaginary double. And away the car drives. – Chris S. (full review)
Slay the Dragon (Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman)
It’s been depressing to watch America fall so far since I have been able to vote. Every passing year has seen the issues grow partisan to the point of rendering debate impossible. We lean into screaming matches instead because neither side is willing to listen. They simply bide time until they can drive home their own parroted viewpoint as some sort of empirical fact despite it being nothing of the sort. People we’ve respected and trusted reveal themselves to be hypocrites and words used in the past become forgotten. Republicans called George W. Bush’s second election by way of receiving the most votes ever (since passed) a victory for our democracy. Then they said Donald Trump winning despite losing the popular vote validated our might as a republic. – Jared M. (full review)
The Social Network (David Fincher)
Sure, frequent comparisons to Citizen Kane set the bar unfairly high for The Social Network, but this is David Fincher and his collaborators working at the top of their game. Of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ three scores, this one stands tall, and Jeff Cronenworth’s cinematography has never felt so vital. Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, meanwhile, edit precisely so that the film moves not just between past and present, but also between stasis and movement captures the disparity between big dreams and unfulfilled desires. The cherry on top is Jesse Eisenberg’s cold, calculating performance, which punctuates the film with cruel humor. The Social Network has already proven itself to be remarkably prescient, a prologue for an era in which internet memes pervade everyday conversation even amongst those who have never fashioned themselves “nerds” and which reminds us that smarts and creativity can’t compensate for perceived failed masculinity if, as we are told in the first conversation, you are “an asshole.” – Forrest C.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Toshiro Mifune Turns 100
100 years ago this week, Toshiro Mifune was born. A legend of Japanese cinema and beyond, The Criterion Channel is spotlighting his epic career with a showcase featuring–[takes a deep breath]–Snow Trail (Senkichi Taniguchi, 1947), Drunken Angel (Akira Kurosawa, 1948), Stray Dog (Akira Kurosawa, 1949), Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950), Wedding Ring (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1950), Scandal (Akira Kurosawa, 1950), The Idiot (Akira Kurosawa, 1951), The Life of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1952), Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954), Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1954), Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1955), I Live in Fear (Akira Kurosawa, 1955), Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1956), The Lower Depths (Akira Kurosawa, 1957), Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957), The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa, 1958), Muhomatsu, the Rickshaw Man (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1958), The Bad Sleep Well (Akira Kurosawa, 1960), Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961), Sanjuro (Akira Kurosawa, 1962), High and Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963), Red Beard (Akira Kurosawa, 1965), The Sword of Doom (Kihachi Okamoto, 1966), Samurai Rebellion (Masaki Kobayashi, 1967), Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (Kihachi Okamoto, 1970), Red Sun (Terence Young, 1971), and the fairly recent documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai (Steven Okazaki, 2015).
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
For his entire career, Terrence Malick has been contending that the divine can be found on Earth. With The Tree of Life, his case was firmly put to rest, with cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki helping prove it in every vivid frame. The stirring reflection on our place in the universe is book-ended by eloquently orchestrated sequences concerning life’s origins and demise, but its central story ruminates on the journey in-between. And while we specifically follow a family in late-50s Texas, there’s a universality that provides a mirror into timeless questions of significance and meaning that humanity has grappled with for ages. An ethereal odyssey into what came before us, what makes us human, and our certain future, The Tree of Life is an enrapturing testament to the profound beauty of cinema. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: HBO
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