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.
Adult Beginners (Ross Katz)
No one is ever going to say Ross Katz‘s Adult Beginners is original. The opening implosion for Jake’s (Nick Kroll) multi-million dollar investment project was done in Elizabethtown, his frightened guilt in not being there when his mother died of cancer is Garden State, and the estranged sibling relationship between he and sister Justine (Rose Byrne) is a trope used countless times each year. It’s a comedy about familial struggle with a bunch of adult “children” trying to find a balance in lives that are kicking them in the ass—plain and simple. You’ve probably already seen every situation writers Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive utilize this month alone and yet it still somehow works. – Jared M. (full review)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
It might feature a skate-boarding, hijab-wearing bloodsucker, but A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is much more than a hipster horror film. Set in a mythical landscape that feels like Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton took a gig art-directing Iran, Girl establishes a raw and seductive edge that is also dreamy and wistful, enamored of Old Hollywood’s visual legacy, inspired by a rich independent heritage, and completely in love with its characters. Turning the tropes of Universal horror films on their head — one scene features a tawdry pimp discovering he’s the classic damsel in distress — Amirpour creates a wonderful character in Sheila Vand’s nosferatu. She’s not a monster, but a convergence of several cultural insecurities, wrapped in a feral, defiantly female shell. Crafted from the familiar, Girls’ best feature is just how fearsomely original and confident it feels. Eraserhead and Bride of Frankenstein have new, welcome company in the annals of filmdom. – Nathan B.
Where to Stream: Netflix
American Sniper (Clint Eastwood)
Where a lot of recent Eastwood pictures (Changeling, Hereafter, even Jersey Boys) contain patches of awkwardness, American Sniper — particularly in its war sequences, which Joel Cox and Gary Roach edit with white-knuckle precision — exhibits a riveting level of control. This may just be the result of well-matched material (a character study about a born-and-bred cowboy nicknamed “the Legend” could hardly be more perfect for a myth-minded director like Eastwood); regardless, few images this year left me as pinned to my seat as the sight of a bearded Bradley Cooper situated behind his rifle, the camera pushing in on him as he grazes his cheek against the weapon. (Tom Stern‘s washed-out, overcast palette here is customarily striking.) Credit Eastwood, too, for offering a balanced portrait of Chris Kyle, wisely (and uncomfortably) pitched between patriotism and reflective critique. The movie is disturbed by Kyle’s values even as it attests to their authenticity. – Danny K.
Black Sea (Kevin Macdonald)
After coming and going with barely a peep earlier this year, the sea-based thriller Black Sea arrives on streaming today. While Kevin Macdonald‘s story of men searching for buried Nazi gold cribs from one too many films to make it highly recommended, it’s a standard-enough thriller that goes to some appreciated dark areas. There’s also Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy, who can excel regardless of the quality of film they are taking part in. – Jordan R.
Citizenfour (Laura Poitras)
Perhaps the most important film of the year, Laura Poitras’ documentary captures the immediate aftermath following Edward Snowden’s leak of top-secret NSA documents to the world. For the majority of its runtime, we are placed in a Hong Kong hotel room with Poitras, reporter Glenn Greenwald, and Snowden as they sift through as much information as they can while Snowden tells you that everything you feared about our government was (and is) very much true. – Dan M.
From What is Before (Lav Diaz)
Depending on your attitude, the 5-hour, 38-minute length of Lav Diaz’s From What Is Before might represent a handicap in its favor, or a demerit. A certain stripe of viewer will praise the film in lieu of wearing an “I survived From What Is Before and all I got was this…” t-shirt; another will compensate for the numbness it induces with hostility. Frankly, I can’t divest myself of either feeling, and this disclosure is imperative to discussing Diaz. Because unlike Shoah, Berlin Alexanderplatz, or any number of Jacques Rivette films, From What Its Before reflects its length in almost every facet of its production value and aesthetic, and watching any given minute would provide most prospective viewers with the impression that there are around 337 more where that came from. – Sky H. (full review)
Where to Stream: Mubi
The Humbling (Barry Levinson)
Shot over 20 days, largely in director Barry Levinson‘s own Connecticut house, The Humbling is an adaptation of Philip Roth‘s novel looking at the enigmatic figure of Simon Axler (Al Pacino), a screen and stage legend who seems to have lost his gift for acting. After an eccentric stage exit during his last production in New York, Simon enters into therapy and retreats to the solitary confinement of his barely furnished country house. Little time passes before the daughter of two old friends shows up at his door and confesses to have harbored inappropriate thoughts about him since “when they were really inappropriate.” A puzzling young woman, Greta Gerwig‘s Pegeen has a complicated romantic past and some issues of her own. Just like that, a relationship is born. – Tommaso T. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini)
Above all, though, Before Midnight might be most significantly linked to Journey to Italy, Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 film about a couple (George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman) who, after nearly a decade of marriage, finally begin to question the futility of their relationship. Not only is Journey to Italy literally name-dropped in Linklater’s film (Celine mentions it during the transitional sequence from the dinner-table conversation to the hotel-room climax), but, more crucially, it serves as a spiritual ancestor as well. In this sequence in Before Midnight, Celine and Jesse, after being bombarded with the stress and company of their children and their hosts in Greece, have at last been left to their own devices: as in the first two Before films, they’re all on their own now, walking and talking, with Linklater’s seemingly invisible camera recording their interaction. – Danny K. (full feature)
Where to Stream: Hulu+
Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
A biopic doesn’t quite describe Mike Leigh’s brilliant Mr. Turner , fronted by a career-best performance from Timothy Spall as legendary British painter J.M.W. Turner. Leigh’s first digitally shot film (from longtime collaborator Dick Pope), the haunting opening scene perfectly captures a landscape painting of a mid-career Turner. Leigh, known for his improvisational style, allows the viewer to enter this space as a fly on the wall, witnessing the quirks of Turner as embodied by Spall; the performance is fascinating recalling his work in Leigh’s Life Is Sweet. Establishing and breaking rhythms, like J.M.W. Turner, the film refuses to compromise. Engrossing and immersive, it’s both beautiful and occasionally challenging. – John F.
Noah (Darren Aronofsky)
Growing up a wee Baptist lad, the biblical account of Noah and his ark always seemed to me an unlikely candidate for cuddly Sunday School lessons. Nonetheless, the popular image of Genesis’ righteous pillar of faith who garnered God’s favor when all around were deluged in the Almighty’s justice has always been one of chipper, storybook fantasy; a white-bearded Wilford Brimley-esque patriarch piling his nuclear family on a big, gaudy boat that’s essentially a floating zoo. It’s telling that the scene most kitschy art pieces tend to focus on is the white dove hovering above the ark as Noah smiles into breaking storm clouds. It’s not very often that you see a needlepoint sweater depicting the sanctioned, mass drowning of all humanity. – Nathan B. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Selma (Ava DuVernay)
If 2014 is considered the “year of outrage,” the 2015 wide-release date for Selma arrives far too late. A visceral frontline examination of Martin Luther King Jr’s civil rights marches in Selma, met with extreme violence (including murder) as Alabama’s good ol’ boys fight to maintain status quo prior to President Johnson’s intervention and the passage of the Voter Rights Act. Undoubtedly this film will provoke conversations within a current context (one early moment seems eerily similar to Eric Garner’s final moments), and Ava DuVernay’s direction ads a sense of raw immediacy to Paul Webb’s script. It also presents King (David Oyelowo), George Wallace (Tim Roth), and Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) as complex, flawed men, each with their own motivations and ideals of justice. – John F.
Also New to Streaming
What are you streaming this weekend?