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 platforms. 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, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.
Blood Simple (Joel and Ethan Coen)
For as accomplished as Joel and Ethan Coen’s debut Blood Simple comes across as to a viewer, like any director, they can’t help but recognize their flaws. That’s not to say their newly restored debut, now available on The Criterion Collection, doesn’t look and sound gorgeous — every bead of sweat dripping down M. Emmet Walsh’s face and every gun blow feels like you’re right there in the sweltering Texas landscape — but there’s an undeniable charm in their recounting of the making of the film. Read our full feature here. – Jordan R.
Goat (Andrew Neel)
There are no volunteer events, community service or positive team-building exercises to be found in Goat. Director Andrew Neel is focused instead on the most vile tendencies related to frat life, notably hazing, but also the larger picture of the addictive cycle of mutually assured self-destruction. Zeroing in a perverse voyeurism of the degrading activities carried out, the environment effectively convinces even if the script (written by Neel, David Gordon Green and Mike Roberts) often comes up short. – Jordan R. (full review)
Kill Zone 2 (Soi Cheang)
Containing a number in its title, yet blissfully not chained to franchise requirements — a decade-long gap between installments perhaps being the first clue as to a lack of continuity — Kill Zone 2 (aka SPL 2: A Time for Consequences) creates a welcome rupture within the action genre’s currently crumbling state: utterly classic in narrative beats yet unafraid to embrace the modern tools of the trade. – Ethan V. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams)
Many of us can name more than a few Disney classics that left an imprint on our childhood in remarkable ways. However, for one family they were more significant than even the animators would have imagined. Life, Animated, which premiered at Sundance this year and won the Best Directing award, follows the story of a a boy who used Aladdin, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and more to cope with autism. We said in our review, “An optimistic portrait of a family and personal struggle with autism and adulthood, Life, Animated is a unique exploration of themes we’ve seen in several other documentaries on the subject.” – Jordan R.
The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Despite most of the conversation surrounding Leonardo DiCaprio and his various on-set ordeals, Emmanuel Lubezki is irrefutably the star of The Revenant, capturing the unspoiled back country with a brisk, arresting touch. From the first action set piece, we’re immersed in the feral surroundings. A calm, patient shot moving across a brook, presenting the title, and curving up to Glass on the hunt serenely places us into his environment. When transitioning back to the camp, we meet only a few of the frontiersman in an unbroken take before an arrow bolts out of the woods, striking a man through the chest. Native Americans descend down from the hills surrounding the camp, with Lubezki’s camera hovering in and out of trees and freshly deceased bodies during the clash. In this thrilling opener, one is struck by the rare level of scale and immediacy on display. The majority of shots to follow — from vast vistas of snow-touched mountains to torches illuminating the darkness of a forest — are jaw-dropping. There’s even a glimmer of subtle optimism in visual cues, such as light peeking through the background in a moment of ultimate retribution. If you’re going to see this one, do it on the biggest screen imaginable. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: HBO Go
Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
With each film, Denis Villeneuve proves his talent for crafting extremely effective visceral spectacles, ensnaring the viewer through expert engineering of mood and action. Yet, with each film, he undermines his achievement by attempting to aggrandize his narratives with weighty undercurrents that are, in fact, desperately vacuous. While Sicario is no exception, unlike the insufferably pretentious Enemy, it delivers a constant, exhilarating stream of elaborate and exquisitely photographed thrills that ends up largely compensating for the would-be profundity. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
Where to Stream:Amazon Prime
Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
A tension is formed by a cut, quickly transporting our heroine from an expansive wheat field to a confined classroom. We’re not just talking the difference of 70mm for the former and the Ari Alexa for the latter, but that of, to quote Kate Bush, the “sensual world” versus the punishment of destiny. Based on a mainstay of Scottish classrooms, Sunset Song is a triptych of sorts chronicling farmgirl Chris’ (Agyness Deyn) womanhood; the first deals with her abusive father (Peter Mullan) and the pain he inflicts on her and the others in the family, the second follows her falling in love and marrying Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), while the third sees Ewan enlisting to fight in World War I and coming back a violent man that resembles her father. – Ethan V. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Swiss Army Man (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan)
It’s rare we’d offer a recommendation of a film we didn’t love, but the mere fact that you won’t witness any other film like Swiss Army Man in this calendar year — or any other, for that matter — makes it worth a watch. Affectionally dubbed the “farting corpse drama” at Sundance this year, it finds Hank (Paul Dano) on a remote island by himself after a boating trip stranded him. Seconds away from ending this desolate existence by hanging himself, he spots a washed up body on the beach, “played” by Daniel Radcliffe. I said in my review, “This set-up could easily make for one of the silliest, off-putting films that has ever graced Sundance — in U.S. Dramatic competition, no less — yet the directing duo bring an unexpected layer of emotion to the story, even if it ends up getting eventually repetitively muddled. As Hank and “Manny,” as Radcliffe’s corpse is later dubbed, progress on their journey, themes of loneliness, isolation, true love, and more emerge.” – Jordan R.
The Witch (Robert Eggers)
“We will conquer this wilderness. It will not consume us,” foreshadows our patriarch in the first act of The Witch, a delightfully insane bit of 17th century devilish fun. As if Ingmar Bergman and Ken Russell co-directed Kill List, Robert Eggers’ directorial debut follows a God-fearing Puritan family banished from their settlement in a colonial New England, only to have their deep sense of faith uprooted when our title character has her way with their fate. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush)
Fair play to Walt Disney Animation Studios of late for not always venturing down the most obvious, tried and true path. Peppered in between their recent revivals of their musical formula (Tangled, Frozen) and recognizable properties (Winnie the Pooh), there’s been a full-blown foray into video game culture (Wreck-It-Ralph) and a superhero adaptation heavy on meshing together Asian and American cultures (Big Hero 6). And now, with Zootopia (or Zootropolis, as some of Europe is getting it), we have a police procedural/neo-noir that actually interrogates themes of racial stereotyping and classism, while satirizing matters like the War on Drugs. But, you know, with bunnies and buffalos. – Josh S. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Also New to Streaming