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.
Cat Person (Susanna Fogel)
The talk of the internet in late 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s New Yorker story about a date gone horribly awry lit a short-lived fire of discourse surrounding gender and power dynamics. About five years later does the big-screen adaptation arrive, and while it expands details of the original text in a few compelling ways, its new third-act addition calamitously renders the whole experience a pointless, heavy-handed, misjudged exercise that relies heavier on horror tropes than any sense of humanity. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
The Holdovers (Alexander Payne)
This film, in the best possible way, is a time machine. Comfortable, bittersweet, and very funny, it captures a moment that is nostalgic without the syrup. Paul Hunham––an embittered classics teacher at Barton Academy boarding school forced to spend his Christmas break babysitting abandoned students––is the pinnacle of Paul Giamatti’s incredible career. He’s mean, he’s pretentious, he’s pedantic. Yet he does care. He is in pain. Alexander Payne has softened as he’s aged, and that’s on full display here. The edge of the blade dulls, and we love these characters enough that we’re happy that they may make it through the day. Da’Vine Joy Randolph might give the best performance of the year and newcomer Dominic Sessa is a wonder. Nothing I write here will do the picture justice. Do yourself the favor and watch it. – Dan M.
Where to Stream: Peacock
Joyland (Saim Sadiq)
Another example of a tasteful but passionless festival film, Saim Sadiq’s feature debut Joyland errs on the side of arch family drama when its most interesting aspects remain almost in the periphery, promising a much better film. Simply put, what seemed like a modern iteration of Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel should have a little more spice, though sadly such comparison might just be the exact projection a critic makes when frankly bored by a film. – Ethan V. (full review)
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Klondike (Maryna Er Gorbach)
Klondike is a funny title for this harrowing, at times absurdist Ukrainian war drama, set as conflict with Russia began to spike in 2014. Referring as it does to the Klondike Gold Rush (the setting for Chaplin’s famous silent comedy), we could expect the resonance of two historical events to overlap, or at least sense a link between the actual subject and the analogy. But any gold in the grey expanse of the febrile Donbas region, where Klondike‘s set, is nary to be found: the landscape seems only dotted with cows and convoys of surface-to-air missiles. Perhaps it’s just a red herring designed to mock the idea of attributing meaning, which is what the shellshocked or aggressive characters in this film are also scrabbling to do, to no avail. – David K. (full review)
Where to Stream: Prime Video
Oldboy (Park Chan-wook)
After his return to feature filmmaking with Decision to Leave, Park Chan-wook recently jumped back into the world of TV with The Sympathizer, set to debut on HBO in 2024. Before that, his twisted revenge thriller Oldboy got a remaster and theatrical re-release in celebration of its 20th anniversary, and it’s now streaming on Netflix. Fun for the whole family this holiday!
Where to Stream: Netflix
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
In his third stab at rewriting history, Quentin Tarantino paradoxically uses specificity to make his most sprawling and ambitious film to date. Taking place over two days and one infamous night, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood sees Tarantino ditching plot as it follows a washed-up actor (Leonardo Dicaprio), his stuntman (Brad Pitt), and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) going about their business in 1969 Los Angeles. Once one gets accustomed to the relaxed pacing and emphasis on character over story, it’s apparent that Tarantino is trying something much different from Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. This is about using our knowledge of the past to create a new, lived-in space based on it, where people forgotten by history can shine and victims can be remembered for who they are instead of where they ended up. In a decade where fantastical and escapist entertainment have dominated and monopolized cinemas, Tarantino pushes the concepts of escapism and fantasy into risky and uncharted territory. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood uses cinema to let us spend time in a world where we can see a part of history have a happy, Hollywood ending, smashes it against our knowledge of reality, and lets us sift through the wreckage. – C.J. P.
Where to Stream: Hulu
Spacked Out (Lawrence Lau)
As part of Metrograph’s new series Hong Kong 1997, a transformative political moment for the city, they are presenting a new 2K restoration of Lawrence Lau’s 2000 feature Spacked Out, a Johnnie To-produced, neon-caked coming-of-age tale told from the female perspective as we follow a group of best friends and their joys and tribulations. Don’t let the inviting, candied aesthetic fool you: Lau’s feature is impressive in the ways it contends with bracingly real issues––drugs, rape, and abortion––amongst its dreamlike vision.
Where to Stream: Metrograph at Home
To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)
A Terrence Malick film is an event, no matter the time or the subject, but it is undeniable that there’s something markedly different and all-together special about To the Wonder. Perhaps it is Malick’s transition from period pieces into the modern world, or the tight focus on people whose only extraordinary circumstance is their search for love. Either way––and for whatever reason––Malick has never felt more sentimental or raw than he does in this film. There is a reality to this film that even his other masterpieces shied from, and his unflinching gaze at the way in which love ebbs, flows, grows, and evolves lays bare the romantic lies in almost every other film ever made. This is to say nothing of his trademark visual style, which makes even bland suburbs and fast food restaurants looks hauntingly lovely. To the Wonder confused people when it first came out, but, with time and understanding, regard for this film can and does grow stronger. – Brian R.
Where to Stream: Tubi
Also New to Streaming
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Kino Film Collection
Please Not Now
Two Small Bodies