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.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Kelly Fremon Craig)
Like Judy Blume’s treasured young adult classic, Kelly Fremon Craig’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret begins in 1970 with 11-year-old Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) getting the worst news any New York City-raised child can get: her family is moving to New Jersey. It’s not only that Margaret will have to leave behind her wise-cracking grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates) or her friends or school, but that being 11 years old often means everything is the end of the world. The crushing despair that makes adolescence feel like a rueful eternity is Fremon Craig’s specialty. – Fran H. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Avatar: The Way of Water (James Cameron)
James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel finally arrived. If not to just wax poetic on the photo-realistic Na’vi and the water they inhabit, one has to admire the megalomaniac yet compassionate director’s knack for a satisfying narrative. Culminating in a perfectly constructed final act which shifts from about four different kinds of action sequence, constantly escalating the stakes and managing to conclude with a lovely, Miyazaki-like grace note… well, you can’t help but admire a blockbuster that has the whole package. – Ethan V.
Brooklyn 45 (Ted Geoghegan)
It’s supposed to be a nostalgic, supportive night. On December 27, 1945, five military veterans and friends from childhood gather inside a Brooklyn brownstone to reminisce about old times, celebrate the end of World War II, and comfort a grieving host whose wife has recently passed. But what starts with sentimental banter and a strong whiskey buzz quickly spirals into an unexpected séance that conjures the paranormal, sparks some paranoia, and builds to a possession that seems hell-bent on staining the wood-paneled parlor with as much blood as possible. That’s the fun, gory, alarming premise behind Brooklyn 45, Ted Geoghegan’s third feature film that asks a lot of heavy questions in-between its abrupt moments of splatter. – Jake K. (full review)
Where to Stream: Shudder
Creed III (Michael B. Jordan)
Just to get it out of the way: the first Creed is the best Rocky film. They share the same formula, a foundation no doubt solidified by the ‘70s sports classic, but Ryan Coogler perfected it to shape a framework that would become emblematic of so many lega-sequels thereafter. The backslide of a follow-up, Creed II, seemed to trade fully in nostalgia, and leaning so hard into the Rocky IV of it all felt cheaper in comparison. A safety net. In such terms Creed III’s success may hinge on a viewer’s love for the Rocky franchise overall. For devotees, Sylvester Stallone’s absence as the Philly icon may leave something of an emotional vacuum. For those unattached, especially following a Drago-heavy part II, it’s almost immediately apparent how liberating Rocky Balboa’s vacancy is. A third installment (or ninth, depending on who’s counting) can be hard to narratively justify in any franchise, let alone one where the legacy character decides to uncharitably bow out. But star and first-time director Michael B. Jordan uses newfound free space to his advantage. Haymakers and uppercuts aren’t the only bold swings taken here. If Creed is the best of the Rocky films, Creed III works because it’s barely a Rocky film. – Conor O. (full review)
Where to Stream: Prime Video
Flamin’ Hot (Eva Longoria)
Well-documented controversies over the accuracy of its story notwithstanding, Eva Longoria’s high-energy feature-directing debut Flamin’ Hot is a classic underdog story, a winning crowd-pleaser, and a brand deposit for Pepsico’s Frito-Lay division. The story of Richard Montañez, a General in the snack wars of the 1990s who rose through the ranks at PepsiCo from janitor to storied executive in charge of multicultural marketing, Flamin’ Hot “prints the myth” guided by a narrator who admits in passages he’s not always reliable. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Living (Oliver Hermanus)
Bill Nighy’s Williams finds a reason to live as the inevitable end approaches in this deeply moving retelling of Kurosawa’s Ikiru, transported to an emotionally repressed postwar London. Like its main character, this is an unfussy, unsentimental film, yet makes an extraordinary emotional mark, powered by a brilliant, nuanced screenplay from Kazuo Ishiguro and Nighy reaching the pinnacle of his career. At a time when we’re all recovering from the trauma of the pandemic, few films in recent years show how precious our time on this planet can be. – Ed F.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Magic Mike’s Last Dance (Steven Soderbergh)
Repeating the blissfully perfect, pure ode to pleasure that is Magic Mike XXL would be a fool’s errand, so nearly a decade later––with Steven Soderbergh back in the director’s chair–cinema’s finest stripper-verse is closing out on a more gentle, familiar, innocuous note. Hewing, unexpectedly, closer to a family film at its heart, Magic Mike’s Last Dance offers a more generalized message of the power of dance to engender community. This reliance on plot––and specifically this plot––rings a touch disappointing when considering the franchise’s bolder peaks. But thanks to a couple of memorable set-pieces, this final outing is still sexier than anything the likes of 50 Shades of Grey or Sam Levinson could ever dream up. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Max
Master Gardener (Paul Schrader)
There is a paradox at the heart of Master Gardener. In their respective worlds—one of abstinence and iconography; the other of money and risk—priests and gamblers are kind of sexy. In their own ways, so are gigolos, drug dealers, porn stars, sex addicts, even taxi drivers. Gardeners? For all their charms, maybe less so. The latest from Paul Schrader rounds out an idiosyncratic trilogy: without breaking the mould, and for three films in a row, the director has placed his man-in-a-room archetype into the fraught, divided milieu of contemporary America. With First Reformed and Card Counter, Schrader could bank on audiences already being attuned to the quasi-culty vibes of his characters’ extreme callings. Master Gardener, the story of a diligent horticulturist, has a bit more heavy lifting to do; but there’s fun to be had in the labor. – Rory O. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Shadow Kingdom (Alma Har’el)
Your local Bob Dylan obsessive has surely mentioned Shadow Kingdom, the 2021 concert film that saw him rework an assortment of earlier songs––some established (“Forever Young,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”), some deeper in the back catalogue (“The Wicked Messenger,” “What Was It You Wanted”). One case (“To Be Alone with You”) marked an almost-total rewrite, and courtesy the end credits (which we now know is called “Sierra’s Theme”) an entirely new track. A smorgasbord for Dylanologists, enough to write home for, but greater still that the film component (directed by Alma Har’el and shot by Lol Crawley) is a smoky, dark––yes, shadowy––achievement all its own. It also sat on some weird service for the short duration paying customers could even access it, seemingly left to be a fun memory from a strange summer. Event of events, then, that Shadow Kingdom is now available to rent or buy. – Nick N.
Where to Stream: VOD
Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt)
Two years after First Cow, which we collectively named our favorite film of 2020, Kelly Reichardt returns with a work like a line drawing: neat, lean, evocative. Showing Up is about art, how art is made, and the people who use their time to make it. It stars Michelle Williams, an actress who has always been at home to the quiet rhythms of Reichardt’s filmmaking, appearing over the years as a down-on-her-luck drifter in Wendy and Lucy (2008), a settler on the wagon trail in Meek’s Cutoff (2011), and as a woman burdened by a belittling man in the director’s anthology Certain Women (2016). – Rory O. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
TÁR (Todd Field)
Although she’d never mention it, we know Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) endured plenty of toxic male BS on her way to becoming a living legend among composers/conductors. To prove that she could also command the wind. So instead of her struggle to the top, a plot that fiction has shown us before, Todd Field makes us witness her tragic descent. Shot with the clinical precision of a nature documentary and powered by Blanchett’s symphony of a performance, TÁR neither condemns nor celebrates ways in which the powerful achieve and remain in power. Instead it simply observes, capturing a refreshing portrait of female genius, a study of the ravenous affair between art and capitalism, and making us question our belief that the art we love can ever truly be separated from an artist we hate. – Jose S.
Where to Stream: Prime Video
Yeast (Mary Bronstein)
In her directorial debut, Mary Bronstein taps into the frustrations of three friends suffering from arrested development. Shot on MiniDV by cinematographer Sean Price Williams (Good Time, Frownland) and starring a young Greta Gerwig opposite Bronstein––among other fresh-faced but now esteemed American filmmakers––Yeast is a time-capsule of New York’s film scene during the aughts, full of perspicacious and pointed notes on life. Le Cinéma Club presents Yeast in collaboration with Mezzanine, an LA-based independent and revival film series.
Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club
Also New to Streaming
Metrograph at Home
Gay Girls Riding Club
Stan VanDerBeek shorts
MUBI (free for 30 days)
Topology of Sirens
Tetsuo, the Iron Man