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.
Black or White (Mike Binder)
With subtle nods to classic Hollywood melodramas, Black or White is a classical contemporary social issue film with notes of Douglas Sirk, wrapped in a courtroom drama. As far as legal procedurals and family dramas go, Black or White is a minor success. It’s entertaining and engaging in passages despite a few supernatural flashbacks that muddy the narrative in a convenient and cheap way. – John F. (full review)
Closed Curtain (Jafar Panahi)
Jafar Panahi, working with co-star Kambuzia Partovi, crafts a spiritual sequel to 2012’s This Is Not a Film that’s deeper, more mysterious, and perhaps even grimmer. What’s initially a close-quarter story of personal redemption grows into a two-headed beast: a documentary on the film you’re seeing and narrative concerning the documentation of said film. But it isn’t traveling down enough rabbit holes so as to eventually be incomprehensible — at least not when the emotional logic guiding one shot to the next is so crystal clear. 2014 offers no better option for fans of meta-textual and political cinema alike. – Nick N.
Where to Stream: Hulu
Fifty Shades of Grey (Sam Taylor-Johnson)
Author E.L. James should be ecstatic that the crazy fervor surrounding her trilogy of BD/SM propelled it towards a movie deal because now artists more qualified to bring her kinkiness to life can get their hands on it. I’m not saying she’s a bad writer—I’ll let the myriad commenters on the interwebs too haughty to accept someone who turned a pornographic Twilight fan-fiction into a worldwide bestseller do that. Talent aside, James hit the jackpot. She touched a raw nerve in female readers desperate for an injection of unbridled sex no matter what adjective for penis was used. Now, with Fifty Shades of Grey the film, her faults can be improved. – Jared M. (full review)
Hyena (Gerard Johnson)
Movies about dirty cops being dirty are nothing new. We have been telling stories about bad cops for as long as there have been stories about cops. Similarly, stories about bad cops trying to do one good thing, or perhaps trying pull themselves out of a tailspin, are a dime a dozen. In an era when even Superman is forced to be morally conflicted, it is no surprise to see a simple human man with a badge acting in a way that would otherwise seem to clash with his chosen profession. It’s not enough to just have a transgressive anti-hero cop as a protagonist anymore — a movie has to do something special in order to stand above the crowd. Hyena doesn’t do enough to do this, but it does do what it does well enough to warrant further investigation from aficionados of the crime and bad-cop genre. – Brian R. (full review)
Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
Writer-director Xavier Dolan’s characters in Mommy rarely feel like people you’d want to spend any length of time with, which is precisely why the film is so affecting. Each have their own unique quirks that make them entirely human and draw you in. You root for them to succeed, and Dolan takes a twisted joy in breaking them in various ways. This is a richly affecting film about the notion of controlling your own life when your child, your responsibility, seems hell-bent on derailing it. Easy answers aren’t given, and there’s a key moment in the film that rings incredibly hollow — a feeling taken away just when you actually bite into the lure. Dolan’s work is moving and painfully beautiful, with astounding performances throughout. – Bill G.
Reality (Quentin Dupieux)
This is what it’s like to go insane. Writer/director Quentin Dupieux loves the surreal and absurd, but Réalité [Reality] takes his penchant for humorous oddity to another level. With Philip Glass‘ “Music with Changing Parts” boring a hole into your temple and fluid sequences of characters meeting in real time or via some from of media projection (and sometimes both at once), the filmmaker revels in keeping his audience off balance and unsure. The beauty of it this time, though, is how he provides us something to look forward to besides any false hope for clarity. No matter how insane things become or how impossible, our only desire is to discover what’s printed on a blue VHS cassette found in the bowels of a boar. The suspense is authentic and the reveal as simple as it is obvious. – Jared M. (full review)
Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland)
What Still Alice posits on the most basic level about its title character’s decline is profoundly counterintuitive. Highly intelligent people, Alice’s doctor suggests, are naturally more adept at hiding the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s with mnemonic devices than people of average intelligence, and therefore undergo mental decline far more rapidly. This counterintuitive sense extends to the film itself, which values outward grace over traceable decline. As the disease progresses, filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmore refuse to upend that grace—it merely changes shape. – Sky H. (full review)
The Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield)
In the fall of 2012, attorneys for the City of New York served filmmaker Ken Burns and his production Florentine Films with a subpoena, seeking all available outtakes from Burns’ film The Central Park Five. While the civil case that had been filed against NYC by the men known as the “Central Park Five” ultimately settled this past September, at the time Burns’ film was released the city believed that the unused interview footage might contain statements that could be beneficial to its case. Burns wasn’t the first documentarian to face such a subpoena: in 2010, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit forced director Joe Berlinger – known for his work on the Paradise Lost Trilogy – to disclose all outtakes from his film Crude. Burns however, was able to quash the subpoena under the still nascent “journalistic independence” standard set forth in the Berlinger case, a decision of overarching importance to filmmakers who venture into controversial subject matter with then-existing legal ramifications. There’s a plausible scenario in which Tales of the Grim Sleeper, the latest film from director Nick Broomfield, could find itself caught up in similar legal proceedings. – Brian P. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Go
Also New to Streaming
All Is by My Side
Big Trouble in Little China
The Blues Brothers
Harold and Maude
The Last Waltz
Leon: The Professional
Men in Black II
No No: A Dockumentary
The Puffy Chair
Saturday Night Fever
Wet Hot American Summer
What are you streaming this weekend?